1 Star = Don't even think of buying a ticket or the DVD 2 Stars = Wait for the DVD 3 Stars = OK if you love the actors, otherwise wait for the DVD 3.5 Stars = Can't lose your money. An entertaining movie-well worth the price of a ticket 4 Stars = A "Must See" 5 Stars = Outstanding! Oscar quality, see it twice!
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
STUDIO SUMMARY: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species. (c) Fox
SAXON SAYS: Entertaining, exciting, and great special effects are the elements that make this film well worth seeing. It's a little too long, but very well done. Andy Serkis as Caesar is amazing. You'll feel like you right there living with the apes. I liked it. Rated PG-13 FOUR STARS
JERSEY BOYS Based on the Broadway play which originated at the La Jolla Playhouse, Jersey Boys is the story of the rise to success of four guys from New Jersey who became the hit singing group known as The Four Seasons, whose lead singer was Frankie Valli. STUDIO SUMMARY: Clint Eastwood's big screen version of the Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of the four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic `60s rock group The Four Seasons. Their trials and triumphs are accompanied by the hit songs that influenced a generation, and are now being embraced by a new generation of fans through the stage musical.
SAXON SAYS: I did record promotion for The Four Seasons in the 1960’s and knew some of the people characterized in the film. The group’s music was part of my personal and professional life so I can’t really be objective about it. Conclusion? I loved this movie. Rated R. Four Stars
ALL IS LOST
STUDIO SUMMARY: Academy Award-nominated writer/director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) takes the helm for this tense adventure drama about a man (Robert Redford) who must fight for survival after being lost at sea.
SAXON SAYS; This may be the one that wins Robert Redford his best-actor Oscar. It's all him, with no dialogue, except for a few curse words, during the whole 106 minutes. One man, lost and alone at sea, does everything he can to stay alive. Amazing performance and, using the old cliche, a real 'tour de force'. PG-13 FOUR STARS
STUDIO SUMMARY:MUSCLE SHOALS is a documentary about a place filled with magic and music, legend and folklore, where the river is inhabited by a Native American spirit who has lured some of the greatest Rock and Roll and Soul legends of all time, and drawn from them some of the most uplifting, defiant, and important music ever created. In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music runs through the hills, the river, and the spirit of the people. It is a place where, even before the Civil Rights Movement really took shape, the color of your skin didn't matter inside the studio.
SAXON SAYS: If you like music and especially "soul" music you will enjoy "Muscle Shoals". It's a good inside look at where some of the best music came from and who made it. And you might be surprised at some of the revelations. Part documentary and part travelog, fans of classic soul music will have a good time with this one. PG 3.5 STARS.
STUDIO SUMMARY: Directed by Oscar (R) nominee Alfonso Cuaron, stars Oscar (R) winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone.
SAXON SAYS: An edge-of-your-seat thriller with some pretty amazing special effects that don't look like special effects. Seems like you're really there, lost in space. How did they do that? Sandra Bullock delivers a powerful performance, again proving her versatility. This is a very good movie. PG-13 FOUR STARS
MAN OF STEEL
STUDIO SUMMARY: A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind.
SAXON SAYS: Too much CGI, too much non-stop fighting, too much darkness, not enough interaction between characters. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe and a few minutes of Laurence Fishburne. I was SUPER disappointed in this latest Superman story. PG-13. ONE STAR
Starring Chris O’Dowd, Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens, THE SAPPHIRES is inspired by a true story and follows four vivacious, young and talented Australian Aboriginal girls from a remote mission as they learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group The Sapphires entertains the U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968.
SAXON SAYS: A great story and a terrific film. I loved this movie. Unfortunately without wide distribution, not many will see it. But if you can, do. It’s outstanding. PG-13 FOUR STARS.
NOW YOU SEE ME
STUDIO SUMMARY:NOW YOU SEE ME pits an elite FBI squad in a game of cat and mouse against "The Four Horsemen", a super-team of the world's greatest illusionists. "The Four Horsemen" pull off a series of daring heists against corrupt business leaders during their performances, showering the stolen profits on their audiences while staying one step ahead of the law.
SAXON SAYS: The trick is you get fooled by thinking this is a good film. In my opinion it’s an illusion. Thanks to a flimsy story they explain everything unexplainable that happened with a voice over at the end, and making it all up. I’m glad I didn’t waste any money to see it. I only wasted time which I can get back with magic. Wait, no I can’t. PG-13. 2 STARS.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER
STUDIO SUMMARY:THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a coming-of-age comedy about three teenage friends - Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) - who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents' rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family - whether it is the one you're born into or the one you create - is something you can't run away from.
SAXON SAYS: I enjoyed this film, maybe because the boys did something I might have wanted to do as a kid. At timeS not too believable, but for me enjoyable. Rated R. 3.5 STARS
THE HANGOVER PART III
STUDIO SUMMARY: This time, there's no wedding. No bachelor party. What could go wrong, right? But when the Wolfpack hits the road, all bets are off.
SAXON SAYS: Save your money. Not funny, not fun, not good. Rated R. 2 STARS
STUDION SUMMARY: Mud is an adventure about two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, who find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios-he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn't long until Mud's visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.
SAXON SAYS: Starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard and Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland as the young boys. Good film, good story, solid performances especially Tye and Jacob as the totally believable boys.
PG-13 4 STARS
STUDIO SUMMARY:On a spectacular future Earth that has evolved beyond recognition, one man's confrontation with the past will lead him on a journey of redemption and discovery as he battles to save mankind. 2077: Jack Harper (Cruise) serves as a security repairmen stationed on an evacuated Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat who still scavenges what's left of our planet, Jack's mission is almost complete. In a matter of two weeks, he will join the remaining survivors on a lunar colony far from the war-torn world he has long called home. Living in and patrolling the breathtaking skies from thousands of feet above, Jack's soaring existence is brought crashing down after he rescues a beautiful stranger from a downed spacecraft. Drawn to Jack through a connection that transcends logic, her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he thought he knew. With a reality that is shattered as he discovers shocking truths that connect him to Earth of the past, Jack will be pushed to a heroism he didn't know he contained within. The fate of humanity now rests solely in the hands of a man who believed our world was soon to be lost forever. (c)Universal
SAXON SAYS: With similarities to “2001”, “Wall-E”, “The Matrix” and “Planet of the Apes”, “Oblivion” is good eye candy for sci-fi buffs. As Jack Harper, Tom Cruise does his usual charismatic strong performance, much of it alone. The story came from Joseph Kasinski’s (“Tron Legacy”) unpublished graphic novel. Co-stars include Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Melissa Leo and Andrea Resborough. PG-13. 4 STARS
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
SAXON SAYS: Robert Redford plays a wanted man. He’s a former member of a revolutionary militant group from the 1970’s, the Weather Underground. When a gung-ho journalist, played by Shia LaBeouf, hunts him down he goes on the run. A solid political thriller based on the novel by Neil Gordon. Robert Redford directs an all-star cast including: Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Jenkins, Terrence Howard and Sam Elliott. Most of the actors don’t have much face time, but they are all very solid. RATED R
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
STUDIO SUMMARY: A new drama from director Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine") powerfully explores the consequences of motorcycle rider Luke's (Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling) fateful decision to commit a crime to support his child. The incident renders him targeted by policeman Avery (Golden Globe Award nominee Bradley Cooper), and the two men become locked on a tense collision course which will have a devastating impact on both of their families in the years following.
SAXON SAYS: Good drama, good story, very solid performances all around, but too long. Two weeks after I saw this film I couldn’t remember the story. Go figure. RATED R. 3.5 STARS
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN
STUDIO SUMMARY: When the White House (Secret Service Code: "Olympus") is captured by a terrorist mastermind and the President is kidnapped, disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped within the building. As our national security team scrambles to respond, they are forced to rely on Banning's inside knowledge to help retake the White House, save the President and avert an even bigger crisis. Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) directs an all-star cast featuring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Ashley Judd and Rick Yune
SAXON SAYS: This film was an edge-of-the-seat fun ride for me. A Summer blockbuster in the Spring. The tension sets in during the first few minutes and keeps going all the way through. I liked it a lot. Rated R 4 Stars
STUDIO SUMMARY: Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in a romantic comedy about the surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness. Every spring, high school seniors anxiously await letters of college admission that will affirm and encourage their potential. At Princeton University, admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) is a gatekeeper evaluating thousands of applicants. Year in and year out, Portia has lived her life by the book, at work as well as at the home she shares with Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When Clarence (Wallace Shawn), the Dean of Admissions, announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to succeed him are Portia and her office rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben). For Portia, however, it's business as usual as she hits the road on her annual recruiting trip.
SAXON SAYS: Not good. I like both the leads, but this is a film in search of a direction. Wanders about and ends up pretty much nowhere. Wait for the DVD. PG-13. 3 Stars
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE
STUDION SUMMARY: Superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have ruled the Las Vegas strip for years, raking in millions with illusions as big as Burt's growing ego. But lately the duo's greatest deception is their public friendship, while secretly they've grown to loathe each other. Facing cutthroat competition from guerilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show looks stale. But there's still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act-both onstage and off-if Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place.
SAXON SAYS: We’ve all seen the big illusionists, either in Las Vegas or on TV. These characters nailed it. I like all the stars, including Jim Carrey and Alan Arkin, who both delivered good stuff. And even thought the story was cheezy and corney but I liked the film. I was entertained.
PG-13 3.5 STARS
Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson
STUDIO SUMMARY:Marty (Farrell) is a struggling writer who dreams of finishing his screenplay, "Seven Psychopaths". Billy (Rockwell) is Marty's best friend, an unemployed actor and part time dog thief, who wants to help Marty by any means necessary. All he needs is a little focus and inspiration. Hans (Walken) is Billy's partner in crime. A religious man with a violent past. Charlie (Harrelson) is the psychopathic gangster whose beloved dog, Billy and Hans have just stolen. Charlie's unpredictable, extremely violent and wouldn't think twice about killing anyone or anything associated with the theft. Marty is going to get all the focus and inspiration he needs, just as long as he lives to tell the tale.
SAXON SAYS: Some of my favorite actors deliver one of my favorite films of the year. Very funny with great performances. Violent but hysterical.
Rated R. 4 STARS 4 STARS
STUDIO SUMMARY: A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a Naval veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
SAXON SAYS: Outstanding performances by Hoffman and Phoenix. Very likely Oscar winners, most certainly nominees. The story wanders a bit and goes off on an unusual tangent, but keeps pulling you along. I liked it.
Rated R. 4 STARS
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
STUDIO SUMMARY: Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades, but, despite his efforts to hide it, age is starting to catch up with him. Nevertheless, Gus-who can tell a pitch just by the crack of the bat-refuses to be benched for what may be the final innings of his career. He may not have a choice. The front office of the Atlanta Braves is starting to question his judgment, especially with the country's hottest batting phenom on deck for the draft. The one person who might be able to help is also the one person Gus would never ask: his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), an associate at a high-powered Atlanta law firm whose drive and ambition has put her on the fast track to becoming partner. Against her better judgment, and over Gus's objections, Mickey joins him on his latest scouting trip to North Carolina, jeopardizing her own career to save his.
SAXON SAYS: I like Clint and his work, but this was a disappointment for me. Very predictable, slow and pretty cheesy. Rated PG-13 2 STARS.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN PG-13
STUDIO SUMMARY: Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest '70s rock icon who never was. Discovered in a Detroit bar in the late '60s by two celebrated producers struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, they recorded an album which they believed would secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation leads them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.
SAXON SAYS: This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. An outstanding story and one that I think every music-lover should see. 4.5 STARS.
THE CAMPAIGN -- RATED R
STUDIO SUMMARY: When long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major public gaffe before an upcoming election, a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. Their man: naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center. At first, Marty appears to be the unlikeliest possible choice but, with the help of his new benefactors' support, a cutthroat campaign manager and his family's political connections, he soon becomes a contender who gives the charismatic Cam plenty to worry about. As Election Day closes in, the two are locked in a dead heat, with insults quickly escalating to injury until all they care about is burying each other, in this mud-slinging, back-stabbing, home-wrecking comedy.
SAXON SAYS: Perfect timing for this one n the heart of political season. Very funny with some original stuff and some cheap bits too. Along with the comedy there is the message about money influencing politics. But only if you look for it. 3.5 STARS
CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER–Rated R
STUDIO SUMMARY: Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) met in high school, married young and are growing apart. Now thirty, Celeste is the driven owner of her own media consulting firm, Jesse is once again unemployed and in no particular rush to do anything with his life. Celeste is convinced that divorcing Jesse is the right thing to do -- she is on her way up, he is on his way nowhere, and if they do it now instead of later, they can remain supportive friends. Jesse passively accepts this transition into friendship, even though he is still in love with her. As the reality of their separation sets in, Celeste slowly and painfully realizes she has been cavalier about their relationship, and her decision, which once seemed mature and progressive, now seems impulsive and selfish. But her timing with Jesse is less than fortuitous.
SAXON SAYS: I like both the leads in this film and I thought the script was rather believable although at times predictable. Overall, worth the price of a ticket. 3.5 STARS
TOTAL RECALL PG-13
STUDIO SUMMARY: Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police - controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world - Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen.
SAXON SAYS: Too long, too much action, in fact it’s almost non-stop. After a while I didn’t care if anybody but me got out alive. Not good. 1.5 STARS
KILLER JOE – NC 17
STUDIO SUMMARY: When 22 year-old drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) has his stash of drugs stolen from him by his mother, he has to come up with six-thousand dollars quick, or he's dead. Desperate, he goes to the trailer-park to see his father, Ansel (Thomas Hayden Church), and he lays out the plan. Chris's mother, who everyone hates, has a life insurance policy that would clear up his debt and make them all rich. The problem is that Chris' mother is very much alive. Enter Detective "Killer" Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a hired hit man with the manners of a Southern gentleman, who will do the job - for an upfront fee, that Chris and Ansel can't pay. Just as Joe is about to leave, he spots Dottie (Juno Temple), Chris' innocent younger sister. Joe makes Chris an offer, he'll keep Dottie as sexual collateral until the money is collected and his fee can be paid.
SAXON SAYS: Dark, funny, bloody and, for me, very entertaining. Matthew McConaughey is wonderfully sleazy and evil. I liked it a lot. Note the NC-17 rating. 4 STARS
RUBY SPARKS – Rated R
STUDIO SUMMARY: Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now struggling with his writing - as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. When Calvin finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later, he is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person
SAXON SAYS: Co-stars Annette Bening, Elliott Gould, Chris Messina and Antonio Banderas make this quirky rom-com even better. If you liked Lars and The Real Girl, (I did) you will probably like Ruby Sparks. I did. 3.5 STARS
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – PG-13
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
SAXON SAYS: Call me crazy but I didn’t care for this movie. Granted, I don’t remember much of the last one and I’m not a big Batman fan, so there you have it. 3 STARS
“SAVAGES “ – Rated R
STUDIO SUMMARY: Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry-raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town...until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon-with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta)-wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel.
SAXON SAYS: Wow! Great action, great cast, solid performances and, for me, quite realistic. It’s gritty, sometimes gory and very good. 4 STARS
PEOPLE LIKE US – PG-13
STUDIO SUMMARY: A drama/comedy about family, inspired by true events, starring Chris Pine as Sam, a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman, whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home, where he must put his father's estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. In the course of fulfilling his father's last wishes, Sam uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down: He has a 30-year-old sister Frankie whom he never knew about (Elizabeth Banks). As their relationship develops, Sam is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about his family-and re-examine his own life choices in the process.
SAXON SAYS: Solid performances and a good story. More drama than comedy and I liked this film a lot. 3.5 STARS
TED – Rated R
STUDIO SUMMARY: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane brings his boundary-pushing brand of humor to the big screen for the first time as writer, director and voice star of Ted. In the live action/CG-animated comedy, he tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish...and has refused to leave his side ever since.
SAXON SAYS: VERY funny! And very R rated too. I’m a big fan of Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg, so I loved this movie. 4 STARS
ROCK OF AGES – PG-13
STUDIO SUMMARY: Rock of Ages tells the story of small town girl Sherrie and city boy Drew, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock 'n' roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake and more.
SAXON SAYS: With Julianne Hough Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Tom Cruise, Brian Cranston, Alec Baldwin and more, this is a real Star-Fest as well as a music-fest. If you like musicals like hairspray and Mama Mia, you’ll like this. I had fun. 4 STARS
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD – Rated R
STUDIO SUMMARY: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stars Golden Globe Award winner Steve Carell and Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley and is the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. Set in a too-near future, the movie explores what people will do when humanity's last days are at hand. As the respective journeys of Dodge (Carell) and Penny (Knightley) converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks - if not the world's - brighten.
SAXON SAYS: I like both lead actors, but I didn’t see the chemistry between the two. Good premise though, and makes you wonder what you might do if you only had a couple of weeks before the world ended. 3 STARS
MOONRISE KINGDOM PG-13
STUDIO SUMMARY: Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore -- and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in more ways than anyone can handle. Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff. Edward Norton is a Khaki Scout troop leader. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl's parents. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the boy and girl.
SAXON SAYS: I really liked this film. Quirky characters, good story and solid performances. 3.5 Stars
Jack Black stars as Bernie Tiede an assistant funeral director in Carthage Texas and one of the most popular people in Carthage. Everybody loves Bernie. He sings in the church choir, teaches Sunday school and helps everyone when help is needed. Bernie becomes friends with rich widow Marjorie Nugent, played by Shirley MacLaine and they are inseparable. Marjorie becomes possessive and makes their relationship very uncomfortable for Bernie, and then Marjorie kind of disappears. Bernie blames it on a stroke she suffered, but maybe he killed her. Bernie? No way, he’s way too nice to do something like that. Based on a true story, this is a good little dark comedy. Jack Blacks performance killed me. Rated PG-13. 3.5 STARS
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-GHOST PROTOCOL
Tom Cruise is back, bigger and better than ever in the perfect holiday film. Action galore and a good story along with some great globe trotting. Well worth the price of a ticket. PG-134 STARS
Starring Asa Butterfield and costarring Ben Kingsley, Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jude Law. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is the story of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home. The 3D is outstanding! A perfect film for all ages.
This is a fictional story about how the financial crisis might have started.Inside a big Wall Street investment firm a lot of people have just been let go when a young analyst discovers something on a flash drive left by his departing boss.It’s not good news and if true it could mean the complete collapse of the firm.Over a 24-hour period there are difficult financial and moral decisions to be made, careers to be lost, and financial repercussions that nobody envisioned.It’s a personal look at what might have been going on when everything hit the fan in 2008.It’s a suspenseful nail-biting disaster film and it is excellent.The ensemble cast includes Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore and Simon Baker. Rated R.4 STARS
THE BIG YEAR
Can you believe a film about bird watchers, or ‘birders’?And it’s actually pretty good.Owen Wilson plays a guy who is determined to break his own record of spotting the most birds in a year.It’s an annual competition called “The Big Year” and bird fanatics quit their jobs, leave their families at home and do whatever they have to do to join the competition.Steve Martin and Jack Black are two guys who want to beat the record, held by Own Wilson’s character, but everybody is being very sly about their tactics. The race is on, the competition is stiff and the scenery is beautiful.I liked itPG3 STARS
THE IDES OF MARCH
A great political thriller starring George Clooney as a governor who wants to be president.His press secretary, played by Ryan Gosling, is devoted to his boss, but when a scandal looms, the Governor’s candidacy and future are at stake and everyone is either covering up or covering their butt.Costarring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood.Solid performances, good movie.Rated R.3.5 STARS
Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics in 2002.Billy’s budget is much smaller than the other major league teams so he tries to re-invent the way a baseball team is put together using statistical analysis.Based on a true story, Moneyball is more about the business of baseball than the sport and is well worth the price of a ticket. Oscar buzz for Brad Pitt. Co-starring Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Chris Pratt.Great cast and a very engaging film-even if you’re not a baseball fan.Rated PG-13.3.5 Stars
Robert De Niro and Jason Statham play a couple of special agent operatives who come up against a secret military society headed up by Spike, played by Clive Owen.Based on a true story, this is international spy stuff where, the predators become the prey. For me it was more of the same stuff I’ve seen so many times. In one especially action-packed scene Jason Statham beats up two guys while tied to a chair.Pretty entertaining at the time but not a story you will remember long after you leave the theater.RatedR. 2.5 Stars.
Ryan Gosling stars as ‘Driver’ a part-time movie stunt driver who moonlights by driving getaway cars during armed robberies.He becomes friendly with his neighbor Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, and when her husband returns home from prison Driver makes a move to help him out.The plan spins out of control and a whole lot of killing erupts.Dramatic and suspenseful with great tension.Co-starring Albert Brooks and Ron Pearlman.Lots of violence but I liked it.Rated R.4 STARS
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT
Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Munn and Christina Hendricks star in this adaptation of the best selling book.It’s the story of a woman juggling family, job, marriage and her own feelings.If you like Sarah Jessica Parker and ‘Sex And The City’ on TV, you will like this one.I don’t know how I sat through “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, but I did.Strong performances but not a film for me.
Rated PG-13.2 STARS
CONTAGION Matt Damon and an all-star cast show up in this microbial thriller about a virus running wild around the globe and an epidemic that’s killing millions. Can we stop it before it kills us all, or before the end of the movie? Let’s hope so. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the story does have a few holes, but over all is rather compelling. Cast includes Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Bryan Cranston. If you’re not a germaphobe before you see this movie you will likely be after you see it.
Rated PG-13 3.5 STARS
OUR IDIOT BROTHER
Paul Rudd plays Ned, the not-so-smart brother of three sisters, played by Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks and Emily Mortimer.Ned is so dumb he sells marijuana to a cop in uniform.But he means well.And his well-meaning honesty and upbeat personality aren’t intended to make a mess of his sisters lives, but that’s what happens. Although when the chips are down, it’s family that matters and maybe Ned isn’t an idiot after all.This is one excellent ensemble comedy.It’s smart, touching and funny.Rated R.3.5 Stars
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
Alex and Kim, played by Guy Pearce and Katie Holms are restoring a dark old mansion when Alex’s young daughter Sally comes to live with them.Sally hears voices and whispers coming fromthe basement and she has nothing to do, so she goes down into the dark basement to see what’s up.Can you see where this is going?Well Sally, played by Bailee Madison doesn’t see where it’s going and has no idea that she’s entering a world from which she may never return.Her life and the life of her family may be destroyed by tiny beady-eyed monsters.So I say, avoid a dark basement in an old mansion. Rated R.3 Stars.
This low budget sci-fi story begins when another Earth is seen near our own planet.Rhoda Williams wants to explore the cosmos and composer John Burroughs is expanding his career and his family.A tragedy brings Rhoda and John together, but the other Earth is calling.Which will they choose? PG-13.3.5 Stars
THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE
Dominic Cooper plays Latif, chosen-against his will-to be the body double for Uday Hussein, the brutal psychopathic son of Saddam Hussein.Cooper plays both parts, Latif and Uday in a performance worthy of an Oscar.Based on real events, Latif is pulled from the front lines of the Iran-Iraq conflict and forced to be Uday Hussein’s double and participate in his horrific lifestyle as his pseudo brother .Great story, outstanding performance and a captivating film.Rated R.4 STARS
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
James Franco is Will, a bay-area scientist on the verge of a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment which is being tested on chimpanzees.When there’s a glitch, Will brings an orphaned chimp home to live with him and his father, played by John Lithgow.Will continues to test the Alzheimer’s drug on his father who suffers from the disease.Meanwhile, the chimp, who he names Caesar, is remarkably intelligent, almost human, apparently having benefited from the experiments on his mother and the .After an altercation with a neighbor, Caesar is confined to a primate animal control facility.But Caesar knows too much and he leads an uprising among the primates which leads to an escape and a huge battle with humans on the Golden Gate Bridge.It’s a prequel of sorts, thus the title, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.
Outstanding and totally entertaining.Costarring Freida Pinto and Brian Cox. Andy Serkis who played Gollum in LOTR plays Caesar using motion capture techinqes.
CRAZY STUPID LOVE
Steve Carrell is Cal Weaver married to his high-school sweetheart Emily played by Julianne Moore.When Emily tells Cal she’s cheated on him and wants a divorce Cal’s world is turned upside down.He’s lost spending his nights drinking alone at a popular bar, without a clue about how to get a date.Enter Jacob Palmer, played by Ryan Gosling.He’s a womanizer extraordinaire, who takes Cal under his wing and teaches him how to become a real ladies man.Meanwhile Cal’s young son is in love with the babysitter, but she’s attracted to Cal, and the womanizer is settling down, and things are crazy-and stupid.Crazy Stupid Love, and the title is perfect.Costarring Marisa Tomei and Emma Stone with Josh Grobin.If you’re attracted to this film and/or any of the stars, you will like it. PG-13.3 Stars.
COWBOYS AND ALIENS
It’s 1875 in the New Mexico territory as Jake Lonergan, played by Daniel Craig wakes up in the desert, wounded and confused and wearing a strange bulky bracelet on his arm.Jake can’t remember anything, even his name. He’s a stranger riding into a little town that’s under the control of a dictating cattle baron played by Harrison Ford.At this point the movie has the makings of a good western.(Stranger rides into town…etc.) Jake takes on the cattle baron’s son, played by Paul Dano, and it’s not long before they’re both in the hoosegow.But then, the town is attacked from the air by nasty alien creatures and the townsfolk are being snatched up and taken away.What the what? Everybody’s freaked out, and why shouldn’t they be, the airplane hasn’t even been invented yet!The film morphs from an authentic western to a sci-fi thriller and keeps the elements of both intact.It’s a genre ‘mash-up’ that I found it totally entertaining.Costarring Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, and Olivia Wilde.Directed by Jon Favreau Rated PG-13.4 Stars.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
Justin Timberlake plays Dylan and Mila Kunis plays Jamie.They start out in a business relationship which turns into friendship which turns into being just friends in a “sex without strings attached” relationship.It might seem a little-or a lot like a recent film called ‘No Strings Attached”.And a lot like many other filmsover the years.Witty snappy dialogue and attractive stars can’t help this very predictable story be anything more than “more of the same” for me.Totally predictable.Excessive R-rated language and too many sex scenes just don’t make it better.Timberlake and Kunis fans will like it.I didn’t.Rated R.2 Stars.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Just in time for Comic-Con, Captain America shows up on the big screen in 3D and 2D.In my opinion no reason to pay the extra money for 3D because 2D will work just fine.The story follows Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, a small sickly guy who wants to join the army to fight the Nazis.Selected as part of an experiment, little Steve becomes a muscular, and almost super-human soldier, and a hero of the war effort as he takes on Red Skull and the forces of evil who would destroy the world as we know it.Co-starring Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell.PG 13.3.5 Stars
Tom Hanks plays Larry Crowne a superstar at his big-box company where he’s worked for years.Downsizing puts Larry on the street which puts him in debt with no prospects for employment.Larry switches from his gas guzzler to a scooter and heads to college to start over.That’s where he meets a community of people he identifies with.And that’s where he develops a crush on his public-speaking teacher played by Julia Roberts.Can you see where this is going? Directed by Tom Hanks, I liked it.PG 133.5 STARS
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON
Directed by Michael Bay it’s bigger, louder than previous Transformers films, and better 3D than I’ve seen lately.The story revolves around a crashed alien spacecraft on the dark side of the moon.Ostensibly, that was the reason the U.S. went to the moon in the first place.Decent sci-fi approach and huge actions scenes. Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, John Turturro, Hugo Weaving.PG-133.5 Stars
I liked the original Pixar film called “CARS” and was looking forward to seeing “CARS 2”.If you feel the same, don’t waste your time, an hour and 53 minutes to be exact.Even the voices of Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Emily Mortimer and Michael Caine can’t help this lame story make it to the checkered flag.The convoluted story has Lightning McQueen and his pal “Mater” heading overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix.Adding the international intrigue of a a spy car named Finn McMissel and too much fast-paced action only made things worse.I was out of gas in the first half-hour and had a hard time making it to the finish line.I can’t recommend Cars 2.
Rated G. 2 STARS
Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a lousy school teacher who is biding her time until she marries a rich guy but when the wedding is off she has to go back to teaching.To say the teacher is ‘bad’ is a HUGE understatement.She is totally dislikeable and totally ruthless, willing to do anything to get what she wants.And what she wants is another rich guy and breast implants.A few laughs but not enough to make it a must-see.Co-starring Lucy Punch, Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake.Rated R. 3 Stars.
A documentary about Buck Brannaman, a real-life “horse whisperer”.Buck came from an abusive background and now teaches people to communicate effectively with horses in a most sensitive way.An amazing and revealing film.Even if you’ve never met a horse, if you are a human being this film will touch you in a way that will surprise you.I highly recommend “Buck” for people of all ages.Rated PG. 4 Stars.
THE TREE OF LIFE
Writer/director Terrence Malick hasn’t made a lot of movies but all of them are controversial and The Tree of Life is no different.People love it and people hate it.I loved it.With cosmic and ethereal images strategically placed within the film we are taken into and out of the story of a 1950’s Texas family where Brad Pitt plays the father to a boy who is played by Sean Penn later in life.This is a movie that will touch your heart and mind, or not.I can’t really tell you what it’s about but you will know when you see it.Or maybe you won’t.Someone near to me said “The Tree of Life is about the events that happen in your life, good, bad, large, small, all woven together to make you the individual that you are”.In my words?It’s personal and touching and very good.I want to see it again..PG-13, 4.5 STARS
Produced by Stephen Spielberg and directed by J J. Abrams, Super 8 takes place in the late 1970’s when a group of friends are making a movie on Super 8 film.In the background a big train derailment causes tremendous destruction and in the following days strange things begin to happen in the small Ohio town.Something supernatural–or from another world is taking over and it could mean death and destruction for all. Super 8 is a sci-fi thriller which I found very entertaining and captivating.Starring Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and some great young actors. PG-13.3.5 Stars
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
Whether or not you are an X-Men fan, or have seen any of the previous X-Men movies, I think you’ll like X-Men: First Class.This is a prequel that tells the story of how the Marvel super-heroes came to be. The people that became the X-men were originally connected in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s as part of a Nazi experiment conducted by German scientist Sebastian Shaw. X-Men: First Class reveals how Charles Xavier, played here by James McAvoy, assembled in the 1960’s the original team of mutants which had to battle Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon, to avert a nuclear Armageddon, which we know as the Cuban Missile Crisis.It’s a good story, with solid performances and a splash of real history and authentic news footage.Costarring Rose Byrne, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, January Jones and more. Solid Entertainment.RatedPG-13.3.5 Stars.
THE HANGOVER II
You know how sometimes–on rare occasions–the sequel to a movie is better than the original?Hangover II is not better than the original.Not even close.After the disastrous night that provided so many laughs in The Hangover, comes a disaster of a sequel.All the characters are back (plus a monkey who smokes) as Stu, played by Ed Helms, and his friends spend a quiet evening before his wedding in Thailand.Of course the guys wake up the morning after in Bangkok and can’t remember what happened the night before. Seems like everyone is trying too hard in this one, and while there are a couple of genuinely funny scenes, the best laughs in the movie happen during the credits.Wait for the DVD. (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis) Rated R. 2 Stars.
KUNG FU PANDA 2
Jack Black and the all-star cast is back as Po, who is now the ‘dragon warrior’ and has to take on the evil Lord Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman. Shen is trying to take control of China and destroy Kung Fu.In 3-D it is visually stunning.Lots more action than the original and the kids will love it. (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, Jackie Chan and Dustin Hoffman)PG3.5 Stars
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
If you ever thought that living in another time would be better, this movie is for you.Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play Gil and Inez, an engaged couple in Paris on business.He fanaticizes about life as a writer in 1920 Paris, and she just wants to have fun with her friends.One night Gil finds himself transported to back to Paris in the 20’s where he hangs out with Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter and Salvador Dali and he loves it, finding it difficult to come back to his life in the present.It’s a romantic comedy with time travel and nostalgia and beautiful shots of Paris.I liked it a lot.Written and directed by Woody Allen. (Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, Adrian Brody) PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides".
Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are gone, but Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, and Ian McShane are on board as the 4th chapter of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise hits theaters.It’s in 3D and follows Jack Sparrow as he races Captain Hector Barbossa to find the fabled ‘fountain of youth’.Ian McShane plays Blackbeard who has some powers to be reckoned with.The 3D is good, the action is big, and Penelope Cruz who plays one of Jack’s old flames, is beautiful.The music, like big ocean waves, swells many times throughout the film and there are lots of pirate action scenes with more on land than sea.All this and a new director too.If you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, you’ll probably like it.PG-13.3 Stars.
Mel Gibson stars as Walter who is a chronically depressed man living a depressingly hopeless life. Walter can’t deal with his wife, played by Jody Foster, or his family, or his business until he finds a beaver puppet in the trash.When the puppet goes on his hand everything changes for Walter and everyone around him.Suddenly, through this cockney-accented beaver, Walter’s troubled life is transformed as he speaks only through the puppet.But at the other end of the arm, the troubled man remains.Costarring Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. PG-13.2.5 Stars.
EVERYTHING MUST GOIt’s not ‘funny’ Will Ferrell, but more ‘dramatic’ Will Ferrell.Will plays Nick who loses his job, comes home to find his wife has left him, locked him out of the house and put all of his stuff on the front lawn.With nowhere else to go and nothing but beer to drink, Nick decides to live on his lawn and try to sell some of his stuff while trying to figure out what to do now.A neighborhood kid, played very well by Christopher Jordan Wallace helps Nick with the selling and some other observations.It’s a quiet film and a different turn for Ferrell.I liked it.Costarring Laura Dern, Michael Peña, and Rebecca Hall. Rated R.3.5 Stars
BRIDESMAIDSIf you liked “The Hangover” which was a movie about pre-wedding men, you will like “Bridesmaids, about pre-wedding women.Kristin Wigg plays Annie who doesn’t have much in life and settles for being perpetual one-night stands with Jon Hamm.When Annie’s best friend Lillian, played by Mya Rudolph announces her wedding, Annie plans to be maid of honor, but there are other forces and other bridesmaids in play which leads to competition and some very funny stuff in an ensemble comedy that really made me laugh.Bridesmaids is a story about girls that boys will really like too. It’s crude, rude and I found it very funny.Costarring Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper.Rated R. 4 Stars
Kate Hudson plays Darcy who is engaged to Dex, played by Colin Egglesfield.Problem is, Darcy’s best friend Rachel, played by Ginnifer Goodwin has loved Dex since they went to school together, but that relationship never blossomed.And to make matters even more complicated, Dex is also in love with Rachel-but he’s engaged to Darcy.Recapping, Darcy and Rachel are best friends.Darcy is engaged to Dex.Dex secretly loves Darcy’s best friend Rachel, who also is in love with Dex.Good actors, good performances, bad script.I didn’t really care about anybody and the whole thing is pretty weak.Costarring John Krasinski and Ashley Williams.
PG-13. 1.5 STARS
Mythical Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, lives in Asgard where the king of the realm is his father Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins.Thor is banished from the realm by Odin and ends up in New Mexico where he meets Jane, played by Natalie Portman.She’s a scientist trying to figure out where this guy Thor came from .And Thor is trying to figure out where his is and what happened to his hammer.We’re back and forth between New Mexico and Asgard as the chemistry between Thor from the other world and Jane from this world continues to get better.It’s a Romeo and Juliet story and it’s fun.The 3D is just OK, but the story and entertainment are worth the price of a ticket.Costarring Stellan Skarsgard, Maimie Alexander and Tom Hiddleston. PG-13.3.5 STARS
CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
It’s a 3D documentary by Werner Herzog about the amazing visual art created by primitive man in a previously inaccessible cave in France.The cave drawings and paintings are more than thirty thousand years old.It’s a fascinating documentary and a unique look at pristine artwork hidden since prehistoric time.
Rated G.3.5 STARS
KILL THE IRISHMAN
Based on real events in the 1970’s, “Kill The Irishman” stars Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, an Irish Mobster in Cleveland at war with the Italian mafia.Christopher Walken plays a prominent loan shark and Vincent D’Onofrio is John Nardi, a Cleveland gangster.Danny Greene became known as “the man the mob couldn’t kill” as he escaped numerous assassination attempts.Nice use of authentic news footage makes this mob movie pretty good.Costarring, Val Kilmer, Paul Sorvino and Linda Cardellini.
Rated R.3.5 Stars.
Fast and Furious becomes Faster and Furious-er in Fast Five.Everyone’s back for this one, except for the dead people.Dom’s busted out of jail and Brian and he find themselves in Rio working together to find their freedom and change their lives.But to do it they’ve got to take down the most corrupt businessman in Brazil (Joaquim De Almeida) and he wants them dead.So-just like in Ocean’s Eleven– they put together a team for the job adding Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon and Don Omar for the ultimate high-stakes take down, which of course involves fast cars.But wait, there’s a new guy sticking his nose into the action.He’s federal agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and he has a hard time separating the good guys from the bad.With a double dose of testosterone and outstanding chase and crash scene Fast Five wins big.PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
Robert Pattinson takes a break from vampire land to enter the big top as Jacob, a depression era down-and-out guy who gets a job with a traveling circus.The owner/ringmaster of the circus is August, played by Christoph Waltz. His beautiful wife Marlena is played by Reese Witherspoon and she’s the star of the show.To save the business the boss brings an elephant into the show and before long there is tension and jealousy between August and Jacob over the elephant and Marlena which leads to a disaster.Based on the best selling novel.Looks good but not much chemistry between Reese and Robert.PG-13.3 Stars.
POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD
Producer/Director Morgan Spurlock who gave us “Super Size Me” delivers a funny, informative and creative documentary about product integration in the media.He financed the movie with money from companies whose products appear in the movie.If you’re into marketing or humor or media or movies or advertising or all of the above, this is a must see. I loved it. PG-134 STARS
If you think you know the whole story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln 146 years ago, you’re probably wrong.In The Conspirator, director Robert Redford reveals details of the plot to kill the president you don’t learn in school tells the story of the first woman executed by the United States.If you like courtroom dramas you’ll probably like this one and you’re learn something too. The Conspirator is well told but sometimes drags, with outstanding performances by Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson and Evan Rachel Wood.
PG-13. 2.5 Stars
An all-star cast provides the voices in this animated G-rated story of a blue Macaw, who lives in Minnesota and never learned to fly.The bird, whose name is ‘Blue’, goes to Rio to save the species but when he and his female counterpart, ‘Jewel’ are kidnapped by smugglers, the plot becomes a prison-break story and then a tale of bravery and courage.It’s colorful, sometimes musical and totally entertaining. The 3D is fantastic! The blue Macaws are voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway with supporting characters voiced by Jamie Foxx, will.i.am, George Lopez, Leslie Mann and Tracy Morgan.Rated G.3.5 Stars
Russell Brand is billionaire playboy Arthur Bach in this remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore film.Arthur is a non-stop drinker who freely and foolishly spends millions on the craziest things and is completely out of control, much to the dismay of his lifelong nanny Hobson, played by Helen Mirren-and his mother, played by Geraldine James.When Mother wants Arthur to ‘grow up’ and become a man she threatens to eliminate his inheritance unless he marries Susan-a proper socialite, played by Jennifer Garner.During the engagement, Arthur falls for non-rich and non-socialite Naomi, played by Greta Gerwig and he doesn’t want to go forward with the marriage his mother has arranged.Arthur’s dilemma?Marry Susan and keep his inheritance or pursue Naomi and lose all the money.My dilemma?How long to stay and watch an absolutely awful film.I stayed until the end and wished I hadn’t.Costarring Nick Nolte and Luis Guzzman.PG-13.1 STAR.
Erik, played by Eric Bana is an ex-CIA operative who has raised his daughter Hanna in the tundra of the Arctic circle to be a hunter and a fighter and a survivor.When Erik decides it’s time for Hanna, played by Sear-sha(Saoirse) Ronan, to leave their home in the wild, she must exercise her skills as an assassin.It’s an action-packed adventure thriller which has a few holes in the plot, but if you don’t stop to ask too many questions I think you’ll like it.Costarring Cate Blanchett.Rated PG-13.3 Stars.
Part ‘Groundhog Day’and part ‘Back to the Future’ without the comedy, “Source Code” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Captain Colter Stevens, a decorated soldier who wakes up to discover he’s part of a mission to thwart a terrorist plot to blow up Chicago.It’s a government experiment that uses a unique form of time travel allowing Stevens to inhabit another person during the last eight minutes of his life, to try to gather clues for an impending event.Stevens goes back to a deadly disaster over and over and every time we find out a little more about what caused it, and what big event is going to be next.The clock is ticking and he has to prevent the next attack.A sci-fi thriller with good action, a goodstory and great performances by all, including Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright.Gyllenhaal is outstanding.PG-133.5 STARS
In this partially animated family film, Russel Brand lends his voice to E.B.He’s the teenage son of the Easter Bunny and he’s in line to take over his father’s job but he has other ideas.So E.B. escapes Easter Island and heads to Hollywood to seek his fortune as a drummer.He hides out in a house occupied by Fred O’Hare, played by James Marsden.Back on Easter Island, with E.B. gone,a power-hungry chick has his eye on the position of Easter Bunny with the idea of changing the concept to Easter Chick.It’s a power-struggle, fish-out-of water story that young kids will like.I was ready to walk after the first 30-minutes, but it actually got pretty good.Co-starring Gary Cole and Elizabeth Perkins, with the voices of Hugh Laurie and Hank Azaria.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER
Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, he’s a slick L.A. defense attorney whose office is in the back of his Lincoln sedan.Haller’s a street-wise smooth operator who has spent his career defending street-wise criminals.His latest client is Louis Roulet, played by Ryan Phillippe, an upscale wealthy Beverly Hills playboy accused of rape, assault and attempted murder.As the case unfolds, Roulet becomes more than a client as Mickey Haller’s career and life are at risk.It’s a good legal thriller based on the novel by Michael Connelly.Costarring William H. Macy, Marissa Tomei, John Leguizamo and Josh Lucas.Rated R3.5 STARS
British funnymen Simon Pegg and Nick Frost from “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” play Graeme and Clive, a couple of nerdy Comic-Con sci-fi fans on a tour ofUFO sites in the U.S.When a space alien named Paul escapes his 60 years of captivity at Nevada’s Area 51, he takes refuge in Graeme and Clive’s rented RV seeking their help in his escape and return to the mother ship.The wacky road trip includes an ongoing chase by federal agents, an accidental kidnapping, a religious fanatic with a gun, lots of close calls and for me, a lot of laughs.Seth Rogan provides the voice of Paul and costars Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Blythe Danner all deliver good stuff.I liked it a lot. Rated R, 3.5 STARS
What if you could take a little clear pill and instead of using the normal 20% of your brain, you can now use 100% of your brain?.For Bradley Cooper, who plays Eddie, the little clear pill, called NZT, takes his life from struggling writer to financial superstar as he turns a borrowed $100 thousand into $2.5 million in ten days.Eddie is sharper, stronger and faster.He can learn any language in a day, master complex math equations, remember everything he’s ever read and much more.While his abilities are limitless and his talent is in demand, Eddie has a ‘limited’ stash of NZT-which hasn’t been tested or approved by the FDA, and it’s not long before others want what he has and are willing to do anything to get it.A great story and a totally entertaining movie costarring Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish.
PG-13, 4 STARS.
JUST GO WITH IT
When Danny, played by Adam Sandler, avoids marrying the wrong woman, he embarks on a 20-year carrer of telling women he’s a mistreated husband just so he can score.Now a successful plastic surgeon Danny meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a woman who he truly likes and like all the rest, she thinks he’s married.So Danny invents a fake divorce from his fake wife.So to add more lies on top of previous lies, Danny brings his assistant Katherine (Jennifer Anniston) and her kids into the charade, pretending they are his ex-family.While the lies keep getting bigger the movie keeps getting worse.Sandler and Anniston fans will like it but for me just a few laughs. Although I do like both of them. All the supporting actors did good work, but the film was about 30 minutes too long and way too predictable.PG-13.1.5 STARS150 MINUTES
From executive producer James Cameron comes a 3-D adventure thriller. The story takes place in New Guinea where a team of divers is exploring beautiful, but very deep and very inaccessible underwater caves and some of them have never dived before.What could go wrong?Well everything could go wrong and it does as a storm floods every cave safe-haven the divers have and blocks their only exit.And while they were trying to find a way out and panicking, I was trying to find a way out of the theater.Why? Because Sanctum sinks under the weight of bad dialogue, wooden performances and lots of yelling by the Australian actors who most Americans won’t recognize.The underwater 3-D photography is often quite impressive but in my opinion Sanctum is ‘127 Hours’ meets ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, meets ‘The Poseidon Adventure’.I say wait for the DVD. Rated R
Colin O’Donoghue plays Michael Kovak who has some shadows in his past and, after a failed attempt at becoming a priest, ends up in Rome studying exorcism.But Michael doesn’t really believe in demons, so he’s sent to visit Father Lucas, played by Anthony Hopkins.Father Lucas is legendary and has performed thousands of exorcisms and he tries to show Michael how it’s done.But when Michael is confronted with things that transcend his disbelief–and Father Lucas’ skills, he discovers a powerful force that can defeat him or be used to confront evil.Basically a lot of exorcism, demon mish-mash that I found more dramatic than thrilling and for me, quite boring.In this case The Rite is the wrong movie.PG-13. 1 Star.
It’s a re-do of a Charles Bronson movie from 1972.Jason Statham plays Arthur Bishop, a ‘mechanic’–basically an assassin–a skilled hit man, and the best in the business.He bumps people off without making it look like an assassination. When his mentor and long-time friend Harry, played by Donald Sutherland, is put on the hit list, Arthur is involved, whether he wants to be or not.After Harry’s death, Arthur becomes the mentor to Harry’s son Steve, played by Ben Foster.He’s a hot-head wannabe assassin whose reckless ways endanger Arthur and himself and in one instance lead to a violent bloodbath.With a high body count “The Mechanic” is an action-filled movie that will appeal to guys who can’t get enough of brutal shoot-em-up revenge.Rated R.3 Stars.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
Natalie Portman plays Emma, a doctor and Ashton Kutcher plays Adam,who works behind-the-scenes on a TV show similar to “Glee”.Having known each other from childhood, now adults, Emma suggests a relationship that is purely physical–just sex–with no strings attached.Of course one of them is going to fall for the other, in this case he falls for her and she can’t commit.Or can she? Variations of this plot have been done so many times it’s really clichéd.The performances are all strong, including those from Lake Bell, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling and Kevin Kline.But the script is weak.It should be called “No Script Attached”.While women will like it more than men, I’m saying wait for the DVD.Rated R. 2.5 Stars.
THE COMPANY MEN
Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones all play executives who are the victims of corporate downsizing.Out of nowhere these guys get laid off, something none of them expected and none of them was prepared for.We follow these guys as they try to re-define their lives and save their self esteem.As many today know, when you lose your job and might be too old to find another one-even if you re-tool your resumé.It has a profound effect on your family, your marriage and your lifestyle.We see it all in The Company Men which is a story of coping and survival and even hope.It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s a pretty good movie.Costarring Maria Bello and Kevin Costner.Rated R. 3.5 Stars
Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are Ronny and Nick, partners in business and long-time best friends in life.Right in the middle of a big business deal Ronny sees Nick’s wife out with another guy.A dilemma because if he tells Nick it will probably destroy him, and likely destroy their business opportunity.So Ronny goes to Nick’s wife, played by Winona Ryder and tells her he knows she’s cheating.But she counters with something that creates a bigger dilemma.Meanwhile Ronny’s girlfriend, played by Jennifer Connelly is concerned that Ronny’s strange behavior might mean he’s gone back to his former gambling habit, and that creates yet another dilemma.I expected a dopey comedy and got a only a few laughs.Co-starring Queen Latifah and Channing Tatum and too long.PG-13.3 Stars.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Kelly Canter a country singer whose manager husband James, played by Tim McGraw pulls her out of rehab early for a comeback concert tour.Garrett Hedlund plays Beau Hutton an aspiring singer/songwriter who is more than friends with Kelly.And Leighton Meester, plays Chiles Stanton a young singer who wants stardom more than anything.Kelly has more baggage than the hold of a cargo plane and we don’t know why.Often you can figure out where a story is going.The good news is, I couldn’t figure out where “Country Strong” was going.The bad news is, I didn’t care.This is one of the worst screenplays ever written.It’s a mish-mash of scenes mixed with drama and music and laughable lines that make a typical TV soap opera look like Shakespeare.Decent performances and good music–if you like country, but in my opinion, as a film, Country Strong is country wrong and country weak.
When 14-year old Mattie Ross sets out to find her father’s killer in Indian country in the 1870’s she finds the most ruthless deputy marshal she can.Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie and Jeff Bridges plays the marshal, Rooster Cogburn.Rooster’s a hard drinking, grumpy guy who likes to shoot people.Directed by the Coen Brothers, True Grit bares little resemblance to the original and doesn’t include the kind of humor that’s often found in Coen Brothers films.But it is good.Mattie and Rooster are joined by a Texas Rager, played by Matt Damon as they travel across the territory to find Mattie’s father’s killer, a guy named Cheney, played by Josh Brolan.The dialogue is deliberate and I’m told, very close to the book.True Grit includes a solid performance by Bridges, and a very strong performance from Hailee Steinfeld.They’re both likely to get Oscar nominations.
PG-13, 4 Stars.
Meet the Parents, Meet The Fockers, and now Little Fockers.Same cast: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand.Greg and Pam Focker have twins, and we don’t see much of them.But we do enjoy, or not enjoy, much of the same stuff that originally made Meet the Parents a hit.Recycled humor, and by now, you might be tired of it like I thought I might be.Ends up I laughed more than I expected to.Jessica Alba shows up as a pharmaceutical sales rep who has her eye on Greg.Owen Wilson is living a zen-like life and for my money is the best part of every scene he’s in.Some would wag their finger at Robert De Niro for doing movies like this, but I’m betting he had fun-I had fun watching him.Little Fockers is getting bad reviews, but not from me.I liked it and I’m thinking audiences will too. PG-13.3.5 Stars.
THE KING’S SPEECH
In the mid 1930’s the man about to be crowned King George VI of England has a real problem for someone whose job description involves a lot of public speaking and speeches.He stutters.Colin Firth plays the king-to-be in this true-life story and he needs help.That’s where Lionel Logue comes in.Lionel’s played by Geoffrey Rush and he has a very unorthodox way of treating people with speech impediments.A bond between the two men develops and the film that tells the story of doing the improbable and impossible is Oscar-worthy, as are the performances of both male leads.Helena Bonham Carter as the young Queen is outstanding.The King’s Speech is a great movie and I liked everything about it.RatedR.4.5 Stars.
It’s the 1970’s and Mark Wahlberg plays “Irish” Micky Ward, a struggling boxer who lives in the shadow of his older brother Dicky, played by Christian Bale.Disky’s a former boxer who is now Micky’s trainer.And Dicky’s got some problems, including drugs, which negatively affect his ability to help his kid brother’s career as a fighter.Their mother, played by Melissa Leo says she loves all her kids equally, including six daughters, but it’s clear she cares more about the troubled Dicky.When Charlene, played by Amy Adams, becomes Micky’s girlfriend, she tries to steer him away from the negative influence of his brother and family.And that’s when it really gets interesting.Almost ‘cliched’ as a boxing film, The Fighter wins all the rounds with outstanding and Oscar-worthy performances, especially from Christian Bale who transforms into an amazing character.Rated R.4.5 Stars
HOW DO YOU KNOW
Paul Rudd plays George, a corporate executive about to be indicted for fraud.Reese Witherspoon is Lisa, a former athlete who is dating Matty, a professional baseball player, played by Owen Wilson.A love triangle is in the works and you can see it coming even before you sit down in the theater.But what you can’t see is a bad script and uncharacteristically poor directing by James L. Brooks.If you can sit through this choppy romantic comedy called ‘How Do You Know’, you may wonder “how do you know if it’s good or bad?”Take my word for it, it’s bad.Bad script plus bad direction usually equals a bad movie.But in this case it’s not all bad because the strong performances of the lead actors and Jack Nicholson make How Do You Know just about OK.Rated PG-13.2.5 Stars
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS
Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, a happily married police officer who one day realizes he is gay.He changes his life and becomes a con man which lands him in jail where he meets the love of his life, Phillip Morris, played by Ewan McGregor.Steven devotes himself to helping Phillip get out of jail and through a series of cons and deceptions he does it.Breaking laws lands Steven back in jail again and again, and he escapes again and again, until the last time.Reminiscent of“Catch Me if You Can” and based on a true story “I Love You Phillip Morris” features outstanding performances by both stars.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
This time Johnny Depp is not decked out in some bizarre costume, but instead plays Frank Tupelo, an American math teacher vacationing in Europe who gets caught pulled into a web of danger and international intrigue when he meets Elise Ward on a train to Venice.Elise, played by Angelina Jolie is following instructions from her lover Alexander Pierce-who is being hunted by Scotland Yard and a big time crime boss for stealing billions of dollars.Frank becomes the target in a deadly game of cat & mouse because the hunters think he’s the one they want.And now Elise is the one Frank wants, but who can blame him?.It has the look of an old Hollywood Cary Grant-Eva Marie Saint, Hitchcock film.Beautiful shots of Paris and Venice, rooftop and canal chase scenes along with a couple of very attractive stars make this a very watchable film.If you’re a Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie fan, take a trip to see The Tourist.
From the Disney company comes a delightful animated feature about Rapunzel.Available in 3-D and 2-D, “Tangled” has an evil stepmother, a hero horse, a handsome prince charming type character and everything else a crowd-pleasing fairy tale includes.Featuring the voice of Mandy Moore. Rated PG. 3.5 Stars.
LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS
Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway star in this romantic dramatic comedy which takes place in the mid 1990’s..He plays a womanizing pharmaceutical salesman and she plays a patient who is tired of the games men play.They get together in the middle of the story, but then it becomes complicated.Good entertainment and in my opinion a smart script.Rated R.3.5 Stars
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1
This is the beginning of the end of the Harry Potter story and the movies. The wizarding world is in chaos, as evil Lord Voldemart grows stronger and stronger with the intention of finally eliminating Harry Potter. Harry, along with friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger go underground to desperately search out and destroy the sources of Voldemart’s power - before Voldemart locates what he needs to become invincible. This sets up The final showdown in Part 2 which promises to be filled with much more action than part 1, which is relatively quiet.For Potter fans it’s an absolute must-see, for everyone else, wait until the finale.PG-134 Stars
Based on the true story, “127 Hours” Stars James Franco as Aron Ralston, an outdoorsy adrenaline junkie who sets off on a hiking trip in Utah and gets trapped when a boulder falls on his arm and pins him in a deep narrow canyon.Nobody knows where he is and he has no way of contacting anyone for help.With the exception of a few flashbacks, we watch the agonizing ordeal of the trapped hiker over five days as he tries everything his can to free himself from certain death.He ultimately does get free at the expense of his right arm. 99 Mins.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS
Russell Crowe plays John Brennan whose wife Lara, played by Elizabeth Banks is arrested and imprisoned for murder.After exhausting their legal options, John sets out to help his wife escape from prison.After a brief setup the story covers the last three years with Lara in prison, the last three months, John finalizes his escape plans, and then the next three days as the plan unfolds.That’s’ where the action is, the next three days, and thus the title.It’s a somewhat suspenseful prison break film which I found interesting until the last act which becomes a familiar and improbable chase scene.At two hours it’s about 20 minutes too long.But Crowe is very good and audiences should like this one.Rated PG-13.3.5 Stars
Denzel Washington plays Frank, a veteran freight train engineer in central Pennsylvania who is in the last couple of weeks of his job and he’s working on this day with Will, played by Chris Pine. Will is new and in some ways still learning the do’s and don’ts of moving freight by rail.Will is about to get a big lesson.Due to human error a train loaded with lethal chemicals has left another station without an engineer and it’s heading toward populated areas where thousands could die if the runaway train can’t be stopped.Tension, nail-biting action and lot of news chopper footage make for a pretty exciting movie experience as the stars try to save the day.Directed by Tony Scott who gave us “The Taking of Pelham 123” and “Man on Fire”.Costarring Rosario Dawson and Kevin Dunn.Rated PG-13.99 Mins. 3.5 Stars.
If you’ve ever been on a morning talk show, or watched a TV morning talk show you might be able to relate to “Morning Glory”.Rachel McAdams plays Becky Potter a morning show producer who loses her job at ‘Good Morning New Jersey” and then gets hired by “Daybreak” a New York based network show.Becky has her work cut out for her as ‘Daybreak’ is way behind all the other shows in the ratings.When Becky fires the male anchor of ‘Daybreak’, leaving the female anchor, played by Diane Keaton without a partner, a serious news guy and award-winning veteran TV journalist is put in the chair.He’s Mike Pomeroy, played by Harrison Ford.Pomeroy is old, he’s grumpy and the last thing he wants to do is be perky in the morning and talk about things that are fluffy.Becky’s challenge is to save the show and save her job and that means giving viewers something they want to see, and that means changing grumpy old Mike Pomeroy .I liked it because I’ve lived in that world, but for those who haven’t it’s just an OK film.PG-13.112 mins.3 Stars.
Six years ago NASA sent a probe into space to see if there was life in our solar system.When the probe returned to Earth it broke apart and the wreckage fell over Central America and Mexico.Soon mysterious life forms begin appearing and it wasn’t long before half of Mexico was off limits to humans and declared ‘The Infected Zone’.A photographer, played by Scoot McNairy, reluctantly agrees to find his boss’s daughter, a tourist in Mexico played by Whitney Able, and escort her back to the U.S. border.We’re along for the slow ride as the mostly un-seen monsters occasionally appear to kill everyone except our two travelers.The film is shot very well, without ‘in-your-face’ monsters, and the story has good dramatic tension and good sexual tension.However, the ending is quite predictable.Rated R.3 Stars.
If you put Robert Downey Jr., Zack Galifianakis, Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan together in a movie you definitely have star power, but do you have a good movie?In my opinion with Due Date you do not!Directed by the guy who brought us the R-rated comedy“The Hangover,“Due Date” is a road trip comedy without a lot of laughs.Yes there are a few, but not enough to make me happy.Downey and Galifianakis both play passengers who get kicked off a plane and have to go from Atlanta to L.A. by car.Downey’s character wants to be there for the birth of his first child, the ‘due date’ is looming.Galifianakis is going to Hollywood to become a star.They share a car driving across the USA with one disaster after another.A few chuckles but I think this one is worth waiting for the DVD.Rated R.1.5 Stars
The story starts big with a Pacific Island tsunami and a near-death experience, then takes us to San Francisco, where a reluctant psychic-played by Matt Damon is trying to change his life.Damon stars as George who has an uncanny ability to communicate with the dead but he doesn’t do spiritual ‘readings’ anymore because he wants to live a normal life.If he simply touches you, George will connect with a lost loved one and discover more than he wants to. Meanwhile in London twin brothers experience a fatal tragedy. The London twins and the tsunami victim are destined to meet George and as the movie unfolds their lives all converge.“Hereafter” starts big and slows down to a deliberate pace under the direction of Clint Eastwood.Strong performances and I liked it a lot.If you like the supernatural you’ll probably like it too.Costarring Bryce Dallas Howard and Jay Mohr.PG-133.5 Stars
The movie called RED has nothing to do with the color.R-E-D is an acronym for Retired and Extremely Dangerous.Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent.One night Frank’s home is attacked by a crew of hitmen who want him very dead.After an incredible action scene Frank gets out alive but now he wants to find out who’s out to kill him and why.So Frank gathers his also-retired former co-workers played by Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren and just like that they’re back in action.And there’s lots of action and for me a lot of fun.Any time you have Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for “The Queen”, firing a machine gun like Sylvester Stallone, you’ve got my interest.Co-starring Mary Louise Parker, Earnest Borgnine, Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfuss, “RED” is a geezer action-comedy with over the top action.PG-13.3.5 Stars
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko, just out of prison and seeking a job, or revenge, or respect, or all three.Gekko’s daughter Winnie, played by Carey Mulligan is engaged to young Wall Street exec Jacob Moore, played by Shia LeBouf, and she doesn’t know that Jacob and her father are talking and possibly planning some wheeling and dealing.Josh Brolin, as investment banker Bretton James, is in a battle for financial supremacy and Gekko is out to stop him, or is he trying to top him?Is it a financial story, a vengeance story, a love story or all of the above.Yes.Directed by Oliver Stone, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” might just put you to sleep, unless you find a wordy, complex and convoluted story entertaining.Rated PG-13.2.5 Stars
The studio says: In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no... In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel’s brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.Fred Saxon says:Compelling and entertaining.If you use a computer to communicate with-or meet people you should definitely see this movie.PG-144 Stars
LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE.
Based on the ‘Guardians of Ga’Hoole’ books, this is an animated story of a mythic band of owl warriors who fight a huge battle to save all owl-kind.Available in 3-D, Legends Of The Guardians starts out warm and fuzzy and quickly turns into a dark and violent battle between good and evil as the Guardians, nice owls, take on “The Pure Ones”, the evil owls.While the animation is very good, this is not a movie for young kids and it left me asking Whoooo cares? Rated PG.2.5 Stars
Olive, played by Emma Stone, is a high school student who isn’t popular so she lies about her sexual proclivity.It’s not long before she’s the most popular girl in school–with the guys, but her popularity with the girls is a different story.Olive has cool and supportive parents, played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson but that might not be enough to save her reputation.It’s a story that uses a webcam, tweets, youtube and textingand moves to a conclusion that is both clichéd and fulfilling.Well written with solid performances and costarring Amanda Bynes, Malcolm McDowell, and Thomas Haden Church.PG-133.5 Stars.
Ben Affleck is director, co-writer and star of “The Town” which takes place in theone square mile section of Boston known as Charlestown.According to the film, Charlestown is known for producing more bank robbers and armored car thieves than any other part the U.S.A.Affleck plays Doug, who, with three of his friends make up a crew of very efficient bank robbers who we see committing a major robbery at the beginning of the movie.Claire, played by Rebecca Hall, is a bank employee taken hostage and later released.But one of Doug’s crew, James Coughlin, played by Jeremy Renner thinks Claire may be a threat and he wants to eliminate her, but Doug says he’ll handle it.So then Doug falls for Claire and that sets up a whole new dynamic to the story.THE TOWN has action, tension, more action and more tension, and a great cops & robbers story with Jon Hamm playing the chief cop as FBI special agent Adam Frawley.Bullets fly, chase scenes and car crashes abound, and I liked it a LOT. Rated R.4.5 Stars.
George Clooney stars as weapons expert and assassin who finds himself the target as he hides out in Italy.It’s slow, quiet, moody and tense, without much dialog but heavy on beautiful cinematography.George Clooney is definitely George Gloomy in this one, but for me his performance only underscores the fact that he is a movie star.Rated R3.5 Stars
He gave us El Mariachi, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and Desparado and now Director Robert Rodriguez delivers “Machete”.It’s pulp action with over-the-top violence and a solid dose of mayhem and laughs.Machete, played by Danny Trejo is an ex- Federale out for revenge and justice and really knows how to make heads roll, literally.Seriously, you will see heads roll on the floor and lots of blood.An evil drug lord, a crooked senator, and border militiamen, “Machete” has it all plus an all-star cast including Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, and Lindsay Lohan.Rated R.4 STARS
If you go to see “Takers” you may want to sit in the last row because the camera is constantly moving with extreme close-ups.It’s a heist film with tons of action and gunfights that takes place in L.A. and involves some real professionals pulling a huge bank job and an armored car heist.The crooks are smart and the cops have no clue who they are. For me this is one of the worst-directed movies I have seen.The camera is so close to the faces all you can see is part of a nose and a couple of eyes.The fight scenes, the action scenes, the slow-motion hail of bullets scenes are shot so poorly you cannot see what is actually happening.I go to a movie to see it, not to try to guess what’s happening.What’s supposed to be happening in “Takers” is the cops trying to catch the bad guys.But in my book the bad guys are the ones who made this film.Starring Chris Brown, Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Paul Walker with a couple of scenes featuring Zoe Saldana.In my opinion it’s bad.
Rated PG-13.½ Star.
Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie, a New York TV producer and Jason Bateman is Wally a stockbroker and Kassie’s long-time best friend.Kassie is unmarried but wants a baby so an arrangement is made with a donor to help her out.At a “Kassie gets pregnant” insemination party, the donor’s donation is switched with a donation from Wally, but it’s not clear what actually happened that night until seven years later.That’s when Kassie moves back to New York with her little boy, who looks and acts a lot like Wally.You can see the ending coming from a mile away in this predictable and fairly un-funny romantic comedy.Costarring Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Partirck Wilson and Thomas Robinson as the little boy who doesn’t know who his daddy is.PG-13,2.5 Stars.
SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD
Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim a dweeby, garage-band musician in Toronto who has a cute girlfriend but falls for the more interesting and challenging Ramona, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.Before Scott and Ramona can truly find romance Scott will have to deal with Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends, and they are fierce.Part comic book, part video game, part teenage angst, and part action-hero movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a solid comedy for me and I liked it.Co-starring Kieren Culken, Anna Kendrick and Jason Schwartzman.
EAT PRAY LOVE
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s multi-million best selling book, this film follows the soul-seeking self-analyzing journey of a woman who can’t figure out what she wants to do and why she can’t commit to a man or herself. She’s lost and wants to find herself.She goes to Italy to eat, to India to meditate and pray and to Bali to love.Julia Roberts stars in this film that is mostly a great travelogue but otherwise boring.If you read the book you will be disappointed.If you didn’t, you probably won’t want to after seeing the movie.A bad script and too long.Co-starring James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, and Javier Bardem
Sylvester Stallone stars in, co-wrote and directs this explosive action film with too many explosions and action that’s way over the top.Stallone plays Barney Ross who heads up a group of tough-guy mercenaries played by Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin and Terry Crews.Mickey Rourke is along for the ride as the groups favorite tattoo artist.When the CIA wants to eliminate a rouge agent who’s teamed up with a general and his army on a South American island filled with cocaine, the agency offers the boys five million dollars to do the job.It’s impossible, but there’s a girl involved so they take the gig.Full blown B-movie stuff here with undoubtedly a sequel already in the works.Rated R.2 Stars
THE OTHER GUYS
There are the stars of the NYPD, the real super cops, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, and then there are the ‘other guys’.When the super cops meet their untimely demise “The Other Guys”, Allen and Terry played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg step in to try to fill their shoes.Allen loves paper work and Terry just wants to take down some perps.These two guys couldn’t be more mis-matched but they’re out to catch a big crook.It’s a buddy comedy with lots of action and a good assortment of laughs.PG-13.3.5 Stars.
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD
Zac Efron plays Charlie St. Cloud whose younger brother Sam died when they were in an auto accident.Charlie has a unique bond with his deceased brother and actually can see him-or his ghost.Charlie meets his brother every evening at sunset to play catch and talk.When a girl comes into Charlie’s life things change and he has to choose between the past and the future.It’s a tear-jerker that Zac Efron fans will love.Costarring Kim Basinger, Amanda Crew, Donal Logue.PG-13.2.5 STARS
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
In this remake of the French film “The Dinner Game”, Paul Rudd plays Tim, a hedge fund executive climbing the success ladder.Company big-wigs have a monthly private dinner where they invite people they can make fun of.When Tim’s boss invites him to find an idiot and bring him to dinner Tim meets Barry, played by Steve Carell.Barry works for the IRS but his hobby is making little characters out of dead mice.Barry perfectly qualifies as the ideal guest for Saturday night’s dinner, but Barry shows up Friday and in a very short time proceeds to completely ruin Tim’s life and destroy his relationship with his girlfriend, played by Stephanie Szostak.Comedy, tragedy, laughs and goofiness make “Dinner for Schmucks” a very entertaining dish.Costarring Bruce Greenwood, Zach Galifianakis, Lucy Punch and Ron Livingston.Rated PG-13.3
THE LAST AIRBENDER
Adapted from the critically acclaimed Nickelodeon anime series and directed by M. Knight Shyamalan.The four Nations, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire should be living in peace, but when the Fire Nation launches a war against the others there is only destruction ahead.After a hundred years in a state of suspended animation, a child by the name of Aang is resurrected and deemed to be the Avatar, an airbender, with the power to control and manipulate all the elements.In 3D and 2D. Rated PG.2.5 Stars
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
Edward and Jacob are still competing for Bella as the evil and vengeful Victoria puts together an army of vicious “newborns”, really thirsty violent vampires, which leads to a big battle that puts Jacob and Edward on the same side.But only one will be with Bella at the end of the movie.My favorite moment is when Jacob appears for the first time in the movie.He’s shirtless and all the women in the audience squealed.Half his time on screen he is shirtless.Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard.Most agree, this is the best one yet.PG-13.3.5 Stars.
Marisa Tomei plays Molly a single mom and Jonah Hill plays Cyrus, her 21-yr old son who lives with mom.When mom starts dating John, played by John C. Reilly, Cyrus sees his relationship with his mother in jeopardy and that sets up a love triangle in this dark comedy with some decent performances from a fairly weak script.Good start, but for me it didn’t last.Rated R. 3 Stars
I AM LOVE
A married woman has an affair with her son’s friend.
Beautifully shot with rich and lush visuals.In Italian with subtitles.Starring Tilda Swinton.
KNIGHT AND DAY
It’s a romantic comedy, a romantic thriller, an action film and it’s a whole lot of fun.Tom Cruise plays Roy, a rogue CIA agent who’s gone bad, or maybe he’s actually a good guy.At the beginning of the film we’re not sure, and June, played by Cameron Diaz, doesn’t have a clue either as she finds herself on a plane with Roy.She likes him and he seems to like her as a possible romance is in the works.What’s not to like? But while June is in the restroom, Roy kills everybody on the plane, including the pilot and co-pilot, and this is just in the first 15 minutes of the movie.What follows is globe-trotting international intrigue, counterespionage, assassins and an evil arms dealer.It’s the kind of great action and fun we used to have in the early James Bond films. Cruise and Diaz have good chemistry whether on a motorcycle running from the bad guys, in a plane crash-landing in a field or in a car careening down the highway as Tom shoots his way out of trouble while lying on the hood of the vehicle.Knight and Day is solid summer entertainment.Co-starring Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis and Paul Dano.Rated PG-134 Stars.
Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Kevin James and Rob Schneider all play guys who went to high school together.When their school basketball coach dies, they all get together after the funeral for a July 4thvacation weekend at the lake house where they celebrated their high school basketball championship.The wives, the kids and even a nanny and a grandmother are there.The men are having fun being together and kind of being kids again, while teaching their own kids how to have fun without their video games.The wives, played by Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph are just coping.Lots of slapstick and pratfalls along with potty humor and only a moderate assortment of laughs for me.Grown Ups is basically a series of poorly executed scenes that are predictable and rather unfunny. I didn’t care for it, but the audience was having a good time.PG-13.2 Stars.
TOY STORY 3
Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the first ‘Toy Story’ movie and 11 years since ‘Toy Story 2’.Time flies and in Toy Story 3, Andy, the owner of all the toys, is 17 and going off to college.Should he store his toys in the attic, donate them, or throw them away?He decides to take Woody and the rest will be stored in the attic.There’s a mix-up and the bag of toys intended for the attic ends up in the trash, and then donated to a day care center.Seems like a great place where a constant stream of kids will play with toys who live for this kind of thing.But there’s a dark side to this seemingly happy place and the toys are actually in a prison-like environment with no way out.Ultimately Toy Story 3 is a prison-break story with a great ending that is likely to make you tear up just a little, or maybe a lot.In 3D or 2D, Toy Story 3 is a great way to spend 100 minutes at the movies.With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, John Ratzenberger and Ned Beatty.RatedG.4 Stars.
Josh Brolin plays Johah Hex, a former confederate soldier turned bounty hunter after the civil war.His face has been grossly disfigured in a revenge move by Quentin Turnbull, played by John Malkovich.Jonah Hex has slightly supernatural powers that enable him to communicate with the dead,and he’s great with guns-using them often to make other people dead.While on the run, Jonah is called upon by President Grant to help save the country from a terrorist attack by his old enemy Turnbull who has acquired a weapon capable of destroying Washington D.C on the 4th of July.It’s pulpy action in the old West with some mystical mojo, and for me, solid campy entertainment.Co-starring Will Arnett, Megan Fox and Aidan Quinn.PG-133.5 Stars
JOAN RIVERS, A PIECE OF WORK
In this documentary, at the age of 76, Joan Rivers reveals her life and secrets, her fears, her struggles and successes.If you like Joan, you will admire her more.If you don’t care for her, you may get a new appreciation for how hard she continues to work or maybe not.Documentary.Rated R.2.5 Stars
Between 1983 and 1987 there were 97 episodes of the A-Team on television.If you were to gather up all the explosions and fire power in those 97 shows and put them all into one movie you would have the big-screen version of A-TEAM.Liam Neeson is ‘Hannibal’, Bradley Cooper is ‘Face’, Quinton Rampage Jackson is ‘B.A’, the Mr. T character, and Sharito Copley is ‘Murdock’.Jessica Biel is the female costar as Charisa Sosa, Face’s ex-girlfriend and who now works for the CIA.The story is simple:The guys, all former special forces vets from Iraq have to clear their name after being accused of a crime against the U.S.A.That means finding the bad guys who set them up and exposing them.That means non-stop, over the top action with some humor mixed in and enough firepower and explosions to move mountains.Much of the action is so frantic and close-up you can’t tell what’s really going on.Rated PG-132.5 Stars
Michael Douglas plays Ben Kalmen once known as ‘New York’s honest car dealer’.Six years after getting some disturbing medical news and losing his reputation and business in a fraud case, Ben is about to turn 60.He’s divorced from his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, and he’s a disappointment to his daughter, played by Jenna Fischer.But he’s still the smooth talking guy who used to sell cars and is now using his skills as a womanizer and maker of bad decisions.He betrays his girlfriend, played by Mary Louise Parker and sinks deeper in debt.As Ben’s world crumbles around him he turns to his old friend Jimmy, played by Danny DeVito and even takes a job in his deli.It’s a dark comedy with strong performances and an ending that makes you wonder what happened to Ben after the movie was over.Rated R. 3.5 Stars
GET HIM TO THE GREEK
Jonah Hill plays Aaron Green, he’s a nerdy junior executive at a record company owned by Sergio Roma, played by Sean Combs, or P. Diddy, or Puff Daddy if you prefer.Aaron suggests a comeback concert for aging rocker Aldous Snow-from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, played by Russell Brand.Sergio goes for the idea and assigns Arron to get him to the Greek in just a few days.That means a trip to London, then New York for the Today Show, then L.A.Only problem is, Aldous Snow is a major wacko, womanizer and substance abuser who is out of control.For Aaron, the gig of a lifetime turns out to be his biggest nightmare, with a little fun mixed in.If you liked ‘The Hangover’ and enjoy a solid dose of vulgarity, you’ll like ‘Get Him To The Greek’.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
Clive, played by Adrian Brody and Elsa played by Sara Polley are lovers and researchers who have successfully spliced together the DNA of different animals to create new “creatures” in the interest of medicine and science. After their employer shuts down any further experiments, they secretly push on to the next step – splicing human DNA with animal DNA – just to see what if they can do it. The result is a woman/creature they name Dren, who Elsa refuses to destroy, and the experiment takes both scientists down a strange path where there don’t seem to be any boundaries whatsoever. This path takes the movie way over the top and it gets very weird and convoluted.If only the good parts were spliced together, SPLICE would be better.Rated R.2.5 Stars.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME
If you know anything about films by Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn, good old pirate films,--or if you saw Indiana Jones or The Mummy movies,you’ll see a similarity in this one.It’s ancient Persia and Dastan, a homeless street urchin is adopted by the king.We move ahead 15 years later and the adopted kid is played by Jake Gyllenhaal-with a six pack.He’s a charismatic rogue prince and pumped up acrobatic warrior who leads the attack on the city of Alamut in a quest for weapons of mass destruction.From there the story reveals a dagger that can reverse time and if misused, the dagger could mean the end of the world.The prince has the task of keeping the dagger out of the wrong hands. Horses, sand, wind and war, along with lots of action, adventure and special as Dastan is faced with the challenge of saving his family and Persia from the dark forces of evil and an uncle who can’t be trusted.Costarring Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and a cast of thousands.Very entertaining.Rated PG-13.3.5 Stars.
Based on the Saturday Night Live sendup of the TV show MacGyver, MacGruber follows in the footsteps of other SNL movies.Remember “The Blues Brothers” ‘Wayne’s World’, “Coneheads” and “The Ladies Man”?All movies that started as SNL skits.Some worked as feature films and some didn’t.I did not like the trailer and that’s usually a bad sign. But I did like the clips, and that’s usually a good sign.The clips were very funny.But when I saw the movie, with about 20 other people, there was a spattering of laughter.With a big crowd it would be funnier, but without that group laughter, MacGruber is only so-so.It’s crude, vulgar and Rated R.3 Stars.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER
In this last in the Shrek series, the green ogre is experiencing a mid-life crisis when he makes a deal with the devil, or in this case rumpelstiltskin, to go back to a more exciting time in his life.A time when he was a single carefree ogre, before he met Fiona, or Donkey.But as we all know, when we time travel back to the past, it can alter the future.Like the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Shrek pays a price and learns a lesson or two or three, and I enjoyed every minute of it.See it in 3D if you can, but even if you can’t this Shrek film, which the studio says is the last, will delight people of all ages.Starring Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas.RatedPG4 STARS
LETTERS TO JULIET
Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, an aspiring writer who lives in New York and is engaged to be married.Sophie and her workaholic Fiancé go to Verona Italy on a business trip and when he’s off doing business, she joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters to Juliet, a kind of Dear Abbey person.Sophie finds a 50-year old letter that had never been answered and, answering it, she meets Claire, played by Vanessa Redgrave and they’re off to find Claire’s long lost lover.One more thing:Claire’s grandson, played by Christopher Egan is with her and he just happens to be Sophie’s age, and single.Sappy, predictable and perfect for women of all ages.
PG, 3 Stars.
If you ever wondered how the legendary Robin Hood got his start and what he was doing before he and his band of merry men starting robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, this film has the answer.It’s a prequel.No men in tights here.Russell Crowe plays Robin Longstride an archer in the King Richard’s army.When the King is killed returning with his army from the crusades, Robin assumes a new identity and once in England visits Nottingham to fulfill a promise he made on the battlefield.What follows is a new life for Robin’s imposter persona, a blooming romance with a woman named Marion, played by Cate Blanchett.Then a French invasion, big battles and a broken promise from the new king which ultimately leads to the guy we know as Robin Hood and, as we see him running off to Sherwood Forest, the end.I liked it a lot.Big cast, big battle scenes, dark, gloomy at times, but I did like it.Rated PG-133.5 Stars
A real-life historical drama about a young Hawaiian woman who challenged the powers of the U.S. government to change the destiny of the Islands.Princess Kaiulani made history before her untimely death at a very young age.The film is more educational than entertaining. PG2 Stars
Queen Latifah is Leslie Wright, a physical therapist with a heart of gold who men always think of as a buddy. She's also a big New Jersey Nets basketball fan and gets to meet star player Scott McKnight, played by Common, who then falls for Leslie's beautiful-but-shallow friend played by Paula Patton.Scott gets injured, Leslie becomes his therapist and they become friends–and maybe more. Just Wright is predictable withs something for everyone–basketball, comedy and romance. PG2.5 Stars
If you are a new mother, or even an old mother, perhaps even a father, or grandfather, or if you just enjoy seeing a baby, the movie “Babies” might be for you.It’s a documentary that follows four babies from different parts of the world from their first breath to their first steps. Ponijao, a girl from Namibia;Mari, a baby girl in Tokyo; Hattie from San Francisco, and Buy-are-jar-gal, Bayarjargal, a baby boy in Mongolia.There is no narration, and very few words spoken as we see these little humans eat, sleep, cry, fuss, fidget, crawl and finally stand up and walk.Babies is a fantastic movie and a wonderful entertainment experience.Rated PG.4 Stars.
IRON MAN 2
In the last minutes of the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., revealed to the world that he was “Iron Man”.That Iron Man was out to do good things for the world.In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is pompous and arrogant and seems only interested in doing good things for himself-although he may be dying.Sam Rockwellplays Justin Hammer whose company is in competition with Stark Industries for government defense contracts and joins forces with an evil Russian played by Mickey Rourke who knows how to make his own version of the Iron Man suit with electric tentacles.The Russian wants Iron Man dead to settle an old score between their scientist fathers.Gwineth Paltrow is back as Tony’s assistant, Pepper Potts and there’s a new gal on the scene, played by Scarlett Johansson.Don Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard as Tony Stark’s best friend Lt. Col James ‘Rhody’ Rhodes and he gets into an Iron Man suit to help Tony fight off an army of Iron Man look-alikes made by the the Russian guy.But who the enemy really is and what this movie is really about is up for grabs.At one point the sky is filled with Iron Man type clones which only proves that more is not better.Great big action, lots of blowin’ things up real good, and Samuel L. Jackson with an eye-patch, make Iron Man 2 a notch behind the original but still entertaining.The first was fun, the sequel is mostly just big.PG-13. 3 Stars.
THE BACKUP PLAN
Jennifer Lopez plays Zoe, a single woman pet store owner who’s given up hope that she’ll marry Mr. Right and start a family.So she decides to use the sperm-bank option and have a child on her own.Newly pregnant, Zoe meets Stan, played by Alex O'Loughlin.He’s a farmer and cheese store owner and the guy she’s been looking for all her life.They start dating and the future looks bright, but Stan doesn’t know Zoe is pregnant, and she doesn’t know how to tell him.When she does everything could change, or maybe not.It’s a romantic comedy with special gross-out scenes that only women will love.Good performances but women will like it more than men.
Rated PG 13.3.5 Stars
Every kid wants to be a super hero but very few will actually try to do it.Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a high-school kid who invents a super-hero that he embodies.He names him Kick-Ass.Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who was McLovin in “Superbad” plays Chris, the son of the crime boss in town.Meanwhile Nicolas Cage is Big Daddy, a former cop who is out for revenge against the crime boss.Big Daddy andhis daughter Mindy, alias Hit Girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz are taking out the bad guys but high-school kid Dave, alias Kick-Ass get the blame and we get all the laughs in this over-the-top, Grossly violent and bloody comedy that delivers a big dose of comic-book satisfaction.Extreme violence but it’s often so extreme I found it ridiculously funny.Not a great date movie, but young guys will like it a lot.Rated R.4 Stars.
Andy Garcia is one of the producers and the lead character in City Island and he's been trying to get this film made for a few years.Finally it’s done, and it’s won some awards, and City Island is well worth seeing.Andy Garcia play Vince Rizzo, a prison guard-he calls himself a correctional officer.His wife Joyce, played by Julianna Marguilles thinks Vince is cheating on her, but he’s actually taking acting lessons because he really wants to be an actor.Vince discovers his long-lost son in the slammer and brings him home to live with the family without telling anyone who he is.If you liked “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” you will love “City Island”.Very funny and well worth the price of a ticket.Co-starring Alan Arkin, Dominik García-Lorido and Emily Mortimer. Rated PG-13,4 Stars.
David Duchovney, Demi Moore, Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth play an upscale family that has everything.And that’s the point, they’re not really a family, but their characters are playing a family in this upscale community.Their job is to promote products that everybody wants.They have parties for their friends and neighbors, show off their new TV, gadgets, gizmos, cars, and everybody wants to get the same things. They want to "keep up with the Joneses" But the Joneses are part of a stealth marketing strategy, one that really works, until a catastrophe causes this fake family to make some serious choices.Co-starring Gary Cole and Glenne Headly.Rated R 3.5 Stars.
THE PERFECT GAME
A heartwarming true story of the 1957 Monterrey Mexico Little League team which became the first non-American team to win the Little League World Series.Starring Clifton Collins, Cheech Marin, Lousi Gosset Jr., Frances Fisher and Jake T. Austin.Although slow-moving the story is a good one and especially because it’s true.A home-run of a movie for Little League fans.Rated PG.3 Stars
Steve Carell and Tina Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, caught up in the routine of being a normal married couple with kids.They work long hours, take care of their kids, and go to bed very tired every night.Their life is not exciting or romantic.To spice things up, one night, Phil decides to take Claire out for a romantic dinner in the city and make it a real ‘date night’.What results isa case of mistaken identity that has the Fosters ending in a nightmare for them but a pretty funny experience for us.Costarring Mark Wahlberg and James Franco.
Rated PG-133.5 Stars
A somber story of a family coming to terms with the loss of a child.Starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon and Carrey Mulligan.Great performances but pretty much a downer of a movie, until the end.For my money, the happy part takes too long to arrive.RatedR.2.5 STARS
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie in the1970s girl band called The Runaways. The film follows the two friends as they go from Southern California kids to hard-core musicians in a band that paved the way for future girl bands.Michael Shannon plays producer/manager Kim Fowley who manipulates and molds the band into a huge success while creating a totally dysfunctional musical family.
Rated R.2.5 STARS
CLASH OF THE TITANS
Filmed in 2D and converted to 3D, this mish-mash of Greek mythology is a mess as portrays a power struggle between men and kings and gods.Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes the drama is more comedic than dramatic.Instead of seeing it in 3D or 2D, see it in ZERO D and/or wait for the DVD .
Rated PG-131 STAR
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
From Dreamworks animation comes “How To Train Your Dragon” in 2D and 3D.It’s the story of a young Viking boy named Hiccup, who has disappointed his father, voiced by Gerard Butler, because he doesn’t display the courage of a Viking warrior.Dragons of various degrees of ferocity are making life very difficult for theScottish sounding Vikings but hiccup doesn’t want to slay a dragon because he’s made a friend of one very special dragon which he names ‘Toothless”.While everyone in the community sees him as weak, Hiccup has a hidden strength which could make all the difference.Rated PG and totally entertaining “How To Train Your Dragon” is adefinite crowd-pleaser.Rated PG3.5 Stars
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
John Cusack stars in and is one of the producers of this film about three forty-something friends and a twenty-something nephew who travel back to 1986 while getting drunk in a hot tub at a ski resort.The guys have to carefully re-trace their steps from the past so they don’t change the future–OR–do things that will make things better for them when and if they get back to the present.If you’ve seen time-travel movies, it’s always a challenge.What results is a sometimes funny and sometimes very raunchy comedy which will appeal to college-age guys and party animals who most likely will love it. Costarring Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Lizzy Caplan. Rated R3 Stars
Matt Damon stars as Army Chief Warrant officer Miller in Baghdad during the early chaotic days of the war.His job is to find WMD’s but he and his crew are finding nothing while risking their lives as they go to every location intel has identified as a storage facility. Miller grows suspicious that something else is going on and he wants to find out what.Iraq-based political intrigue, heavy duty action with real Iraq vets playing many of the parts, make this a watchable, and sometimes preachy war movie.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE
Kirk is a dorky TSA agent who meets a beautiful babe who apparently falls for him.The title says it all, “She’s out of my League”, but it doesn’t answer the question: Can a dweeby guy find true love with a stunning hottie?They are obviously mismatched, but it has worked for others. Starring a bunch of relatively unknowns including Jy Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller and Mike Vogel. “She’s Out of my League” provides lots of laughs and is worth the price of a ticket.Rated R.3.5 Stars
Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle and Richard Gere all play New York cops who have no apparent connection to each other as each deals with his own problems.Ethan Hawk plays a dirty cop who desperately needs money to buy a house.Don Cheadle’s character is undercover in the drug world hoping he’ll get promoted before he gets killed.And the third cop, played by Richard Gere is a week from retirement and considering suicide.Wesley Snipes is a gangster fresh out of prison and Ellen Barkin is a law enforcement higher up with her own agenda and doesn’t care who gets hurt.Corruption, drugs, violence and circumstances cause the lives of the three cops to intersect.Good cast, good performances, but a downer of a movie.From the director of “Training Day”.
Rated R.3.5 Stars
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Director Tim Burton brings us another unique film with a liberal interpretation of Louis Carroll’s tale of a little girl in a strange land.Alice isn’t so young.She’s played by Mia Wasikowska, she’s 19 and about to become engaged when she falls down a rabbit hole.She enters “underland-where we discover she’s been before.Underland is controlled by the evil Red Queen, sister of The White Queen.Helena Bonham Carter is the red one and Anne Hathaway the white one.Alice is expected to slay a dragon before it’s all over.It’s a crazy world where Alice is smaller, then taller, andJohnny Depp as The Mad Hatter is either crazy or maybe actually out to help Alice-who is expected to slay a dragon before it’s all over.The Cheshire Cat, Blue Caterpillar and White Rabbit are all there which adds to the fun.In 2D, 3D, or Imax 3D.
Rated PG3.5 Stars
It’s a cop black & white buddy movie starring Tracy Morgan as the black cop and Bruce Willis as the white cop.And of course they’re always screwing up and of course the chief is always yelling at them and because this is a comedy there should be a few laughs.And there are—a few.Willis plays Jimmy who needs to sell his rare baseball card to pay for his daughter’s wedding.When the card is stolen Jimmy and his partner Paul, played by Morgan go after the bad guys, even though they’re suspended. Directed by Kevin Smith this is no “48 Hours” or “Lethal Weapon”.Good to see Bruce again and even though Tracy Morgan was cast as the goofy guy, I saw the possibility of him doing a serious role in the future.Co-starring Kevin Pollack,Guillermo Diaz, Michelle Trachtenberg, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee. Moderatly funny and forgettable. Rated R.3 Stars.
A remake ofthe 1973 movie, “The Crazies” takes place in a small Iowa town where one by one, the people are going crazy and killing each other.Timothy Oliphant plays Sheriff Dutton and Rhada Mitchell his wife.The sheriff knows something is causing people to go crazy and it’s not long before he figures it out, but now just about everyone is going nuts except him and his wife and his deputy, played by Joe Anderson…and we’re not so sure the deputy is one of the sane ones.So the three of them are on the run to find somewhere safe as the military moves in and begins to wipe out the entire population–everybody–because this thing could get out of control.Well done and very bloody.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
THE GHOST WRITER
Based on the book and reportedly leaving little out, The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor who is hired for 250 thousand dollars to re-write the memoir of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan.The original co-writer of Adam Lang’s memoir washed up on shore at Martha’s Vinyard, very dead, so the new ghost writer has some doubts-but a quarter million bucks for a month’s work is a nice paycheck.What follows is international political intrigue involving the CIA, possible torture and more, and puts the writer’s life in jeopardy. “The Ghost Writer” is Roman Polanski’s first film since “The Piano” and while not as good as The Piano, I found it dramatically satisfying.Co-starring Kim Cattrall. Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi and Eli Wallach.3.5 Stars
Director Martin Scorcese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio re-unite for the fourth time in “Shutter Island”.DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, he’s a government marshal who, with his partner Chuck, played by Mark Ruffalo, is investigating the disappearance of a patient at a mental institution.But it’s not just any mental institution it known as a place that houses only the most dangerous, damaged patients.And because it’s on an island it is virtually escape proof.From the moment Teddy and his partner arrive on the island, things are crazy weird and creepy and they only get more so.What happened to the missing patient who was institutionalized after she killed her children?Is something even more horrific going on in this isolated island of insanity?Great cinematography, super acting and a solid script make “Shutter Island” a great psychological thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock.Co-starring Ben Kingsly, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson.Rated R, 138 mins.4 Stars.
Starring Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey,Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx,Jennifer Garner,Topher Grace,Anne Hathaway,Queen Latifah,Shirley MacLaine,Emma Roberts, George Lopez, Julia Roberts, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift and Ashton Kutcher.This gang of actors play couples and singles and we follow them through the pitfalls and happiness, the heartbreak and joy of one Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles.Nice to see so many stars in the same movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great film.But if you’re attracted to a romance movie with lots of stars-titled and about- “Valentine’s Day”, you’ll probably like it.Directed by Garry Marshall.PG-13 3 Stars
PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF
Percy feels out of place in his high school and then he discovers his roots are in Greek mythology and he’s actually a real-life demi-god, half human half god.And to make it more stressful, Percy’s father is Poseidon-which explains why Percy enjoys water so much.The gods are about to do battle and Percy is called into action to do his part to bring peace to the situation.It’s a fantasy adventure suitable for pre-teens and anyone who wants to brush up on, or test their knowledge of Greek mythology.Decent special effects.Based on a series of books.Starring Logan Lerman as Percy and co-starring, Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean.Rated PG3 Stars
SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS
Steve Buscemi plays John, a former gambler who’s slowed down his gaming and is now working for an insurance company.When his boss, played by Peter Dinklage asks him to help check out a possible insurance fraud case John thinks it might lead to a promotion.So he joins the company’s super fraud detector Virgil, played by Romany Malco and they head off to Vegas leaving his new co-worker girlfriend behind. She’s played by Sarah Silverman.From there it’s a dark comedy that wasn’t as funny as I had hoped.I like all the actors, but the story left much to be desired.Rated R.85 Mins.3 Stars
THE LAST STATION
Christopher Plummer is Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren is Sofya, his wife of almost fifty years. Now, in 1910 Russia, their relationship takes a turn. Tolstoy is giving up his position and belongings to the State and his followers, while his Sofya fights to keep what she says belongs to her and their family. Tolstoy’s young assistant Valentin, played by James McAvoy is in the middle of it all and caught between Tolstoy and Chertkoff, played by Paul Giamatti, the man who has encouraged Leo Tolstoy to abandon his family. The film has a great look with Oscar-worthy performances by Plummer, Mirren and McAvoy. Rated R. 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James, a diplomatic aide in Paris who wants nothing more than to become a full-blown CIA operative.James is sent to the airport to pick up his new partner, one Charlie Wax, played by John Travolta and that airport trip changes his life forever.In fact it almost ends his life.Charlie Wax is one crazy, trigger-happy guy who shoots Paris up real good as he and James are out to stop a terrorist attack.Testosterone-filled action with Car chases, explosions, more chases, more explosions, and about a thousand pounds of bullets are fired, and that’s just in the second half-hour of the movie.Rated R.3.5 Stars
EDGE OF DARKNESS
Mel Gibson is back and out to get the guy who killed his daughter.Mel plays a Boston detective and when his daughter gets killed walking out of the house with dad, everyone thinks dad was the target.But there's much more to the story including links to a company involved in a classified nuclear program, a senator who gets big support from that company, and the daughter's boyfriend who's scared to death.It's a whodunnit thriller with good performances and a nice amount of action.Mel is back and he hasn't lost his aim.Rated R.3.5 Stars.
WHEN IN ROME
Kristen Bell stars as a NY exec. on a quick trip to Rome when, after taking coins from a fountain of love, she suddenly has multiple men chasing her.Starts out super-cheezy and ends up not too bad.Occasionally funny moments provided by supporting actors Danny DeVito, John Heder, Dax Shepard and Will Arnett make it worthwhile.Co-star Josh Duhamel turns in a convincing performance as a guy who has really fallen for Kristen. PG 13.3 Stars
When Dwayne Johnson, or if you prefer, “The Rock”, shows up on the big screen in a tooth fairly suit–complete with wings–you might think you’re in store for a cheesy comedy.And you’d be half right.Dwayne plays Derek, a minor league hockey player in Michigan.He’s given up on his dreams and tells the kids in his life to keep their expectations low.For almost revealing the true identity of the tooth fairy and to teach him a lesson, Derek has to do time as an actual tooth fairy which results in some fairly funny scenes.Strong support from Ashley Judd, Billy Crystal, Stephan Merchant and Julie Andrews make this half cheesy, half-funny film worth the price of a ticket.RatedPG.3.5 Stars.
Based on real life events, the film reveals how the father of two children with a fatal disease goes to extraordinary measures to track down a scientist who might have a cure.Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, he’s a successful executive and two of his three children have Pompe disease, a neuromuscular disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness which means his children will probably not live to see their tenth birthday.Crowley findsDr. Robert Stonehill, a scientist played by Harrison Ford, who might have discovered something to prolong the life of his children, and anyone who has Pompe disease.Crowley and Stonehill join forces and work against the clock in a profoundly moving and revealing story with powerful performances. Harrison Ford is delightfully stubborn and grumpy.Solid performances by all, including costar Keri Russell.Some laughs and some tears.Rated PG.3.5 Stars
THE BOOK OF ELI
Denzel Washington plays Eli, a man alone, wandering a post-apocalyptic world and knowing only that he must continue to go West. There are a few other survivors in this desolate world and when Eli comes upon a small town the leader of the community, played by Gary Oldman, wants the one thing Eli won’t part with. It’s the only remaining Bible on the planet and Eli won’t hand it over to a man who wants to use it to control his people. And Eli is a fierce fighter and clearly nobody to mess with. Good action but ultimately, for me, not one of Denzel’s best. Rated R. 3 Stars
THE LOVELY BONES
Based on the best selling novel, this is the story of the murder of Susie Salmon, a 14-year old girl, as told by Susie from beyond the grave. Directed by Peter Jackson the movie incorporates lots of other-world images and symbolism and ultimately becomes a creepy tale interspersed with bright colors and fluffy clouds as we go back and forth between the real world and the world of the murder victim retracing the crime and the family's painful aftermath. Starring Saorise Ronan as Susie, Mark Wahlberg as the father, Rachel Weisz as the mom, Susan Sarandon as the grandmother and Stanley Tucci as the creepy killer. PG 13. 136 mins. 3 Stars.
YOUTH IN REVOLT
Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp, a nerdy teenager who thinks everybody but him is doing great with the girls. When Nick falls for a girl who already has a boyfriend he decides to create an alter-ego, Francious Dillinger, to try to woo the girl of his dreams. Very funny and I liked it a lot! Based on three books by C.D. Payne. CostarringPortia Doubleday, Ray Liotta, Jean Smart, and Steve Buscemi. Rated R, 90 Minutes. 4 Stars
Jeff Bridges delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as drunken broken-down country singer 'Bad Blake' . Once a big star, Blake is now playing small-town bowling alleys and driving from town to town in his broken down car. Bad Blake takes a shine to Jean Craddock, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal as she interviews the has-been singer. She's much younger but a romance develops. It's an old story reminiscent of 'Tender Mercies' starring Robert Duvall. And it's no coincidence that Duvall produced “Crazy Heart” and is also in the movie. The big surprise is a co-starring role by Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet, a former bandmate of Bad Blake. Excellent performances by all in a great story. Rated R. 112 mins. 4 Stars
Amy Adams plays Anna who believes she's on the verge of getting engaged but when her boyfriend of four years doesn't propose-but heads off to Ireland on a business trip, she decides to follow him. Anna's plan is to propose to him and because it's 'leap year' that's ok. The trip to Dublin is filled with mishaps and that's when she meets Declan, played by Matthew Goode and you can easily see the ending coming a mile away. Good actors, bad script and bad movie. Wait for the DVD. PG 2 Stars.
A SINGLE MAN
Colin Firth plays a gay man who lost his partner in a deadly accident. Outstanding performances. Rated R.4 Stars.
It’s a love triangle when Meryl Streep’s ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, falls back in love with her and she’s beginning to date her remodeling designer, played by Steve Martin. It’s complicated and a smart romantic comedy.Rated R. 3.5 Stars
Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson are together in this action-packed film by director Guy Ritchie. Never dull and filled with some funny stuff.
Director James Cameron tries to make history again with the most expensive movie ever made.Avatar takes place in the year 2154 when earthlings are mining the natural resources of the planet Pandora, specifically a material called unobtainium.The native creatures of Pandora are the Na’vi.They’re blue, peaceful, tall and graceful, and live in an forest environment filled with lush vegetation and exotic colorful animals, and they really don’t intruders.Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a wheelchair-bound former Marine who-along with other researchers, is able to exist as a native on Pandora by a unique combination of DNA and advanced technology.Jake’s mission is to establish negotiations with the Na’vi–as one of them–so their natural resources can be harvested.Once Jake lives like a native, or a Na’vi, he wants to become a Na’vi and goes over to the other side.A conflict unfolds which leads to war between the humans and the Na’vi.The earthlings have high-tech weapons, the Na’vi have bows and arrows.While basically a predictable story, Avatar features outstanding visuals, great special effects as a totally engrossing film.At more than 2.5 hours James Cameron does make history.Costarring Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez and Giovanni Ribisi.
Rated PG-13.4 Stars.
UP IN THE AIR
After getting Oscar attention for JUNO, director Jason Reitman turns to this adaptation of Walter Kirn's comic novel. Academy Award-winner George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a businessman on the verge of reaching five million frequent flyer miles when his company decides to cut back on travel. But his goal isn't the only thing just out of reach: he now won't be able to see a fellow frequent traveler (THE DEPARTED's Vera Farmiga) who has caught his eye.RATED R4 Stars
It’s the inspiring and true story of how after 30 years in prison, South African president Nelson Mandella united his racially divided country.And he does it in a most unique way using the country’s rugby team to bring his people together through the universal language of sport.Morgan Freeman is terrific as Nelson Mandell and Matt Damon is solid as the captain of the rugby team in this Clint Eastwood directed film.PG-133.5 Stars.
THE ROAD In a post apocalyptic world, Viggo Mortensen plays a man intent on the survival of himself and his young son as they travel the desolated place where life was once good. Oscar worthy performance and totally engrossing story. Costarring Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce and introducing Kodi McPhee. Rated R. 4 Stars
BAD LIEUTENANT: Port of Call New Orleans Nicolas Cage in one of his best roles in a long time. He plays a cop with many vices including extortion, drug abuse, and more. Eva Mendes is the girlfriend who doesn’t do much for the misery this guy lives, but she delivers a strong performance. Good Stuff. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX Adapted from the Roald Dahl classic, this stop-motion animated story is quite fantastic. Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and more, it’s a totally entertaining film about wild animals against humans who want them gone--but cute. PG 3.5 STARS
THE MESSENGER Outstanding performances in this powerful story about Will Montgomery, a returning injured war hero, played by Ben Foster, who now has the task of carrying the bad news to the families of fallen soldiers. Under the tutelage of fellow officer Tony Stone, played by Woody Harrelson, Will learns the other side of how the war affects the families of the fallen, while building relationships and ultimately healing himself. Outstanding performances. Co-starring Samantha Morton and Steve Buscemi. Rated R 4 STARS THE BLIND SIDE Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, an upscale Memphis woman who welcomes into her home Micheal Oher, a very large African-American teenager from the wrong side of town. When she finds out that Michael has no place to go, Leigh Anne makes Michael a part of her family and watches over him like her own child. And when it’s clear the big guy has a future in football, everything just gets better. Based on the true story, The Blind Side is the feel-good sports movie of the year. Co-starring Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates and introducing Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher-who now plays for the PG 13. 4 STARS
2012 From the director of Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and 10,000 B.C., it’s 2012. According to an interpretation of the Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012. The movie 2012 leads us up to that date starting in 2009, with ominous signs the end is near. The world’s population is doomed and only a privileged few will have the chance to survive through a plan that has been kept top secret. As the earth’s crust shifts and the poles realign the movie depicts the ultimate planetary disaster and makes every other disaster film look like a hangnail. One reviewer called it a “smorgasbord of global annihilation”. With such fantastic special effects who cares if the plot is somewhat hokey and sprinkled with unbelievable scenes? Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson and George Segal. 158 Minutes. PG-13 3.5 Stars PIRATE RADIO In one scene in the film someone says, ‘that’s the thing about being the government. If you don’t like something you pass a law against it.” In the 1960’s the British government wouldn’t allow rock and roll to be broadcast on the radio. So ‘pirate’ radio stations were established beaming rock and roll from boats anchored in the North Atlantic. The government made it illegal so the DJ’s broke the law by playing the music the people wanted and in the process changed musical history. If you have a rebel spirit or just love music, Pirate Radio is a film you’re likely to love. I did. It’s funny, it’s very musical-with tons of great nostalgic music, and it’s fun. Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh, and Emma Thompson. Rated R. 4 Stars.
GENTLEMEN BRONCOS About a 17-year old aspiring science fiction writer whose world comes apart when the learns that his idol, a famous sci-fi writer stole his story. A bad script equals a bad movie. It’s a bleak comedy that is very bleak and not funny. Save your money. PG-13 0 Stars
DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL Brought to you in ‘motion capture’ and available in 3-D this is a highly produced version of the Dickens classic tale with dazzling effects, outstanding images, and not a lot of heart or humor. The film features the voices and facial expressions of Jim Carrey who plays Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Also along for the ride as one or more characters are Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins and Robin Wright Penn. While staying qite true to the original story, the movie offers a slick new version with some frightening scenes that may scare younger kids. 95 minutes, Rated PG 3.5 Stars THE BOX It’s 1976 and Norma, played by Cameron Diaz and Arthur, played by James Marsden are living a nice life in Virginia with their young son Walter. Norma’s a teacher, Arthur works for Nasa but they could probably use some extra money. When a box is left at their front door a follow-up visit by a pretty weird guy reveals they can get one million dollars just by pushing the button on the device in the box. Push the button, get a million dollars. Oh wait, there’s one more thing, when you push the button someone-who you don’t know will die. Based on a 1980’s episode of Twilight Zone, “The Box” starts strong, then gets complicated and wacky with zombie-like people, hints of the afterlife, and a possible alien takeover. Frank Langella is pretty weird as the weird guy, but overall, The Box doesn’t contain a must-see movie. 113 mins. PG-13 2 Stars.
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS Ewan McGregor plays a small-time journalist who trying to get into Iraq to cover the war when he meets Lyn Cassady, played by George Clooney in Kawait.. Lyn is on a secret mission and claims to be one of the U.S. military’s ‘psychic spies’ who have developed the ability to use their psychic powers as ‘Jedi warriors’ to penetrate the enemy’s defenses and even cause things to happen from miles away using only their mind. The film goes from flashback to the present too many times and as the lead characters get lost in the desert, I got lost in the story. The title comes from the book it’s based on and refers to part of the training where spies stare at goats to develop their power to kill with psychic power. Co-starring Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, 95 minutes. Rated R. 2.5 Stars
THIS IS IT The bad news is that Michael Jackson is dead. The good news: Because he's gone, so many more people will now see what a phenomenal entertainer he was. The movie is great! It's not a concert film, not a true documentary, but a 'behind-the-scenes’ look at MJ's total involvement in the creative process and numerous rehearsals. Shot with only two cameras and not really intended for the public. Considering the perfectionist he was, I'm guessing Michael wouldn't have wanted it seen by the masses. But if you show it they will come. And when they do "This Is It" provides and outstanding and revealing look into Jackson's work. PG 4.5 Stars
AN EDUCATION Carey Mulligan gives an excellent Oscar-worthy performance as beautiful and bright 16 year old Jenny in this coming of age tale set in England in the early 1960’s. Her quiet, predictable schoolgirl life is changed forever when she meets David (played by Peter Saarsgard), the smooth older man who gives Jenny ‘an education’ in the ways of the world. The movie has a wonderful look and feel and Alfred Molina does a good job as Jenny’s strict father in this poignant tale that will probably appeal more to women. PG-13 3.5 Stars
GOOD HAIR When one of comedian Chris Rock’s daughters said ‘Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?”, he came up with the idea of making a documentary about the trials and tribulations of women in the African American community and their hair. The result is “Good Hair” a solid documentary that will entertain and enlighten women-and men-of all ethnicities but especially those who know what a ‘relaxer’ is. Chris Rock may have a new career, making great documentaries. It’s well worth the price of a ticket. PG-13 4 Stars
AMELIA The story of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic never quite takes off. Hilary Swank, plays Amelia Earhart and Richard Gere, is George Putnam, her publisher and husband, while Ewan McGregor is Gene Vidal, the first secretary of aviation under Franklin Roosevelt. We know how it ends, but the story leading up to that ending is disjointed and quite un-interesting. Some good visuals, but overall a rough flight. 111 Mins. Rated PG 2.5 Stars.
CIRQUE DU FREAK, THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT When a weird show called ‘Cirque Du Freak’ comes to town, A-student Darren and his friend ,D-student Steve check it out. That marks the beginning of a most unusual adventure for both as Darren, played by Chris Massoglia, becomes a half-vampire and assistant to Larten Crepsley, played by John C. Reilly. As for Darren’s friend Steve, played by Josh Hutcherson, he becomes a full vampire and embraced by the ‘vampaneze’ who-if you didn’t know, are the bad vampires because they take all your blood. John C. Reilly is great. The Vampire’s assistant doesn’t suck, in fact it’s oddly captivating in a weird freaky way. Co-starring Ken Watanabe, Patrick Fugit, Willem Dafoe and Salma Hayek. 108 mins. PG-13. 3 Stars.
ASTRO BOY Animated and based on the classic Japanese cartoon, Astro Boy features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson and more. When cute little Toby is accidentally killed, his scientist father creates a robot clone of his son, complete with super powers. He becomes ‘Astro’ and leaves Metro City, orbiting high above earth to join a group of earth-bound rag-tag scavengers with some of their own battles to fight. Solid entertainment and a good family film. 94 Mins. Rated PG 3.5 Stars
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Based on the classic and beloved book by Maurice Sendak “Where The Wild Things Are” features the voices of Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano. I didn’t read the book but from the reaction of the kids and adults during the screening I saw, the long range prospects for Where the Wild Things Are, won’t be too wild. Max Records plays Max, a young boy who runs away from home into a fantasy world of very large wild creatures who make Max their king. Good special effects and characters but for me, an unfulfilling movie. Directed by Spike Jonze and rated PG. 3 Stars. NEW YORK I LOVE YOU This is a collection of ten short film segments that star some familiar faces including Bradley Cooper, Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman and Blake Lively. But these short episodes seem to lack any texture that the city of New York has plenty of. Each segment was shot over a two day period. The collection is unremarkable. Rated R. 2 Stars. LAW ABIDING CITIZEN Gerard Butler plays Clyde, a former crime victim who gets gruesome revenge and brags about it. Nick Rice, the assistant district attorney played by Jamie Foxx, is out to stop him from doing anything else. When Nick goes to prison he claims to be just a “law abiding citizen”, but even in solitary confinement, he is still getting his revenge in a vicious way and lots of people are dying. Good suspense and explosions. It’s a ‘how can we stop this guy’ story with twists and turns and I liked it–while I was caught up in the story. But when it was over I had lots of questions about what I had just seen. And three days later I couldn’t remember much about the plot. Rated R. 3 Stars
FUEL This is an outstanding documentary about energy and fuel and the coming trends and possibilities the future holds. Packed with history and facts, “Fuel” provides more than enough information to write a huge term paper, maybe even a thesis. 4 Stars.
A SERIOUS MAN I always look forward to a Coen brothers movies and usually want to see them again. Movies like “No Country for Old Men”, “Burn After Reading”. Fargo, and The Big Lebowski. But the latest film from the very talented Coen Brothers called “A Serious Man”, left me wishing I hadn’t seen it the first time. Not quite that bad, but I was disappointed in this story about a guy whose brother is living in his house, his wife is leaving him and his kids are causing him lots of distress. Add to that, trouble at work and possible bad news from his doctor and you have a dark comedy. It’s bleak and odd, and call me crazy, but I didn’t like it. For me it was more dark and less comedy. If you love Coen brothers movies, “A Serious Man”, might be a surprise and not a pleasant surprise. Rated R. 2 Stars. COUPLES RETREAT If you’re a Vince Vaughn fan like I am, you’ll probably want to see “Couples Retreat”. And I’m guessing you’ll be disappointed just like I was. Four couples head to Eden, a fantastic tropical island resort where they’re expecting some fun, but get mostly boring sessions with counselors and therapists. Just like I was expecting a funny movie, but I got only a boring movie. When I saw it there was one big laugh about one hour and five minutes into the wayyyy too long film. Other than that, mostly chuckles. It’s Vince Vaughn, with co-stars Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Malin Ackerman, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell and Faizon Love. If you add all the kings horses and all the kings men, you still couldn’t put this lame movie back together again. Couples Retreat has to be one of the worst movies of the year. In my opinion, it is awful! If you’ve seen the commercials, you’ve seen the movie. Rated PG-13. 1 STAR
ZOMBIELAND It’s a world where a virus has turned the entire population into zombies. Columbus a wimpy survivor is played by Jessie Eisenberg and he’s on his way to Ohio to see if his parents are still alive. Along the way he meets another survivor, Tallahassee played by Woody Harrelson. Tallahassee is a redneck kind of guy who loves kicking zombie butt. As this unlikely pair travel together they’re not sure of any other survivors, but then they meet two girls, played by Emma Stone and Abigail Brslin, who steal their car and that changes everything. Zombieland is gorey and hilarious with a surprise cameo appearance that’s worth the price of a ticket. This is one of my favorite movies of the year. Rated R. 4 Stars. CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY Michael Moore takes on the government bailout, the financial institutions and the banking industry in his latest film. I think Michael Moore films would be better if he didn’t appear in them and try to be cute. Capitalism: A Love Story provides some eye-opening info about this country’s financial meltdown. If you want to get upset, see this one. Rated R. 3 Stars.
WHIPIT Producer, director and co-star, Drew Barrymore brings this adaptation of the novel “Derby Girl” to the big screen. It’s pretty much an all-female cast as ‘Juno’ star Ellen Page joins a team of roller derby babes who aren’t quite good enough to be number one in the league. There’s bumpin’ and fighting and conflict and competition. With co-stars like Drew Barrymore, Kristin Wigg, Juliette Lewis, Marcia Gaye Harden along with Daniel Stern and Jimmy Fallon, there’s a little something and someone for everyone. Rated PG-13. 3 Stars.
THE INVENTION OF LYING Ricky Gervais plays Mark a boring chubby writer who works for a boring movie company in a world where nobody has discovered the fine art of not telling the truth. Jennifer Garner plays Anna, who has no problem telling Mark she thinks he’s unattractive and she doesn’t want to waste her time seeing him again, because it’s a world where everybody speaks their mind about anything and everything. That’s just the way it is. Then, one day, Mark discovers he can say something that isn’t true, and because it’s a world where nobody does that, they think Mark is telling it like it is. That little stunt ends up getting him a bunch of money very easily. Bingo, Mark has invented lying and he’s the only one who knows how to do it which gives him a lot of power. And from there, he can pretty much decide most of the circumstances of his life. Will he get the girl-by lying or telling the truth or neither? A quiet and somewhat intellectual comedy by the guy who created The Office. Cameos and co-stars include Johah Hill, Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Bateman and Edward Norton. I liked it. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
SURROGATES Based on the graphic novel. It’s a high-tech world where you can choose to use a robotic surrogate to replace you out in the world while you stay home and control your surrogate. Kind of like operating your own life-sized puppet from the safety of your bedroom. And in this movie, millions of people all over the country are doing it. You can make your surrogate look as beautiful as you want, so everybody looks like a model. There is a small group of resistors who prefer to live in the world as humans, but most people let their surrogates live for them. Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell are FBI agents investigating the mysterious murder of a college student who is the son of the guy who invented surrogate technology. As the story unfolds, we don’t know who is real and who isn’t and who to trust. Brilliantly cheezie or cheezily brilliant, very entertaining. Co-starring Ving Rhames and James Cromwell. I liked it. Rated PG-13 3.5 Stars
LOVE HAPPENS Aaron Eckhart plays Burke Ryan, a self-help guru who coaches people on handling grief, but he’s unable to handle his own. While conducting a week long seminar in Seattle Burke meets Eloise, a florist played by Jennifer Aniston, and he falls for her, but she thinks he’s a little ‘weird’. There’s lots of pain and agony going on, but it was happening in my mind as I was trying to sit through “Love Happens” because the movie never should have happened. Two good actors plus one bad script equals one bad movie. That’s what happened with Love Happens. You should only see this movie if you’re too happy and want to feel worse. Wait for the DVD, then don’t rent it. PG-13. 1 Mercy Star. THE INFORMANT Matt Damon plays Mark Whatacre, an executive with agri-business giant Archer Daniels Midland. He blows the whistle on his company and reveals a price-fixing scheme to the FBI. Then, at their request he becomes a spy to uncover even more wrongdoing. Problem is, he’s a pretty stupid guy when it comes to spying. Or is he? Based on a true story “The Informant” is a one-gag story that is pretty revealing and has some surprises along the way. Costarring Scott Bakula and directed by Steven Soderbergh. I enjoyed it. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
WHITEOUT “Whiteout” is a who-dunnit suspense drama/thriller set at the South Pole. Kate Beckinsale plays a U.S. Marshall whose South Pole assignment in 70-degrees below zero is coming to an end. But when a body is discovered on the ice she is pulled into the investigation which involves mysterious cargo on a Russian cargo plane that crashed more than 50 years ago. Co-starring Tom Skerrit, Gabriel Macht, and Columbus Short. It’s a so-so thriller but worth waiting for the video. Rated R. 2.5 Stars
THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE Each year those who are into fashion-and you know who you are, look forward to The September issue of Vogue magazine. And The September Issue -the documentary- provides a very revealing inside look at the behind the scenes planning and production of the 2007 Vogue September Issue - as well as editor-in-chief Anna Wintour who many say is the most powerful woman in fashion. Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada was supposedly patterned after her. Well done and intriguing, especially if you love fashion. PG-13 4 STARS
Not to be confused with ‘District Nine”, ‘9’ is also a sci-fi film but this one is animated. The human world has been destroyed in a war between humans and the machines. Before he died, the scientist who created the machines made small creatures that look like little burlap covered dolls, and they’re the only ones left to fight the machines that now rule the planet. Each of the little guys has a number and the one known as ‘9’ is voiced by Elijah Wood. Other voices include Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover. Produced by Tim Burton, ‘9’ has that Burton feel. The animation is excellent, but the story of the little robots trying to defeat the big machines got old for me. PG-13. 3 Stars.
EXTRACT Written and directed by Mike Judge, the creator of King of The Hill and director of “Office Space”, Extract is a quirky comedy that is more quirky than comedy. Jason Bateman owns an extract company that makes flavoring and he wants to sell the company but a pending lawsuit might make selling impossible. Mila Kunis plays a new employee who wants to get her hands on some of the lawsuit money, while Ben Affleck plays a laid-back friend who wants everyone to be mellow and has the pharmaceuticals to make it happen. Add a bunch of blue-collar workers from the plant and a sleazy lawyer, played by Gene Simmons and you have a lot of terrific characters, but not necessarily a terrific movie. “Extract” is short on comedy but long on great characters, some of which we’ve all met. I liked it but that’s because I’m quirky. Costarring Kristin Wigg, J.K. Simmons and David Koechner. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
ALL ABOUT STEVE I really like Sandra Bullock but “All About Steve” has to be the worst movie she’s ever made. Bullock’s character, Mary Horowitz constructs crossword puzzles for the local newspaper in Sacramento. When her parents arrange a blind date with Steve, a news videographer, played by Bradley Cooper, Mary goes nuts and chases him all over the country. She’s annoying to him and she was annoying to me. Meanwhile, Thomas Hayden Church, plays a TV reporter who wants to be an anchor and he’s encouraging Mary to keep chasing Steve. When Mary constructs a crossword puzzle all about Steve her boss says “I’m really surprised you would do something like this”. And to Sandra Bullock I have to say, ‘I’m really surprised you would make this movie” At it’s heart the story wants us to accept people who are just a little different. But this movie is very different, in a bad way, and I can’t accept it or recommend it. It was painful to watch, until the last 15 minutes and that’s too long to wait. PG-13. 0 Stars. THE WORLD’S GREATEST DAD In this dark comedy, Robin Williams stars as Lance Clayton, a single father schoolteacher who still has the dream of being a famous writer. His only son Kyle, played by Daryl Sabara is a major jerk and a bad student in his dad’s school. When a freak accident changes everything for Lance, he makes some decisions that could grant him the fame as a writer that he always wanted. But can he keep the most important secret of his life and his son’s life? Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
AFGHAN STAR In our country auditioning for American Idol or Dancing With The Stars won’t get you killed. But in Afghanistan, if you audition for the TV show “Afghan Star” your life could very well be in danger. Yes, if you sing-or dance, you risk your life. This documentary shows the reality of living in a country influenced by the Taliban and how many people of Afghanistan long to sing and dance and vote for their favorite while those who don’t even think women should show their face in public are trying to stop them. Revealing and inspiring. 4 Stars.
TAKING WOODSTOCK The latest movie from Ang Lee, who directed “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is “Taking Woodstock”. Originally I thought it was going to be a documentary about the huge music festival of 40 years ago, but I was wrong. Taking Woodstock is inspired by the true story of Elliot Tiber and his family who inadvertently played a pivotal role in the history-making event. Elliot, played by Demetri Martin, is helping his parents operate their run-down motel in upstate New York and the bank is about to foreclose. When a nearby town cancels a hippie music festival, Elliot contacts the producers, and through a chain of unexpected events, three weeks later 500,000 people gather on a neighbor’s farm for the biggest hippie music event the world has ever seen. The movie isn’t about the music, it’s about the people and circumstances that led to Woodstock. Not compelling and I can’t recommend it. Costarring Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, Imelda Staunton and Eugene Levy. PG-13 2.5 STARS
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS It’s 1944 and Brad Pitt is army leutenant Aldo Raine who heads up a group of Jewish soldiers with the mission of hunting Nazis and killing them rather brutally. Meanwhile others in Europe, including German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kreuger, are hatching a plot to kill Hitler and his leaders in a movie theater in France. Directed by Quentin Tarantino Inglorious Basterds, is 2.5 hours long, but looks great, with excellent performances, especially by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz who deserves an Oscar. Subtitles come and go throughout the film and after a slow start I found it totally entertaining. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
DISTRICT 9 When a huge space ship arrived on Earth and hovered over Johannesburg South Africa 20 year ago, more than a million aliens from the ship were moved to an urban compound and they’re still there. The space ship is still hovering and the creatures, called ‘Prawns” are becoming a problem. So Multi National United, a private security firm is trying to move them, but the company also wants to unlock the secret of the aliens’ weapons. Outstanding action, engrossing story with lots of violence, District 9 is one of the best space-alien films I’ve ever seen. New director, new actors combine to make a very good movie. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE Claire, played by Raechel McAdams has been in love with Henry, played be Eric Bana, since she was a very young girl. That’s when she meets Henry. She is young and he is somewhere in his 30’s. She keeps meeting him as she grows older but he doesn’t age that much. Henry is a time-traveler who goes in and out of the present, moving backwards and forward in time. It could become a problem for a married couple, and when Claire marries Henry it does become a problem. Claire is a wife who gives new meaning to the phrase, “my husband travels a lot.” Based on the best-selling book this is a love story that women will like a lot. Rated PG-13. 3 Stars
THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD Jeremy Piven stars at Don Ready a hard-sell professional with a crew of hard-selling,’ don’t take no for an answer’ salesmen hired to save a failing car dealership in Temecula. The crew sells hard, and lives hard, spending lots of time in strip clubs and drinking. But when the boss, Don Ready falls for someone elses fiancé, his traveling salesman days might be over. Funny with cheap laughs and totally predictable. Co-starring Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, and James Brolin with a cameo by Will Ferrell. Rated R. 2 Stars
A PERFECT GETAWAY When a newlywed couple start their honeymoon on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai they’re thinking it will be a perfect getaway. Just as they’re setting off on long hike to a remote beach, the newlyweds, played by Steve Zahn and Mila Jovovich discover that a gruesome murder just happened in Honolulu on nearby Oahu. And to make it worse, the cops think the murderers are hiding out on Kauai, exactly where the lovebirds planned their perfect honeymoon. A solid thriller with a big twist, this one will make you think twice about hiking in Hawaii. Excellent performance by Steve Zahn. Costarring Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez and Chris Hemsworth. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
THE COVE If you have ever enjoyed a dolphin show or been concerned about what you eat “The Cove” is a must-see. This exposé hosted by the guy responsible for the success of “Flipper” on TV is a real eye-opener that will make you see the smile on a dolphin’s face in a whole new way. Ben Stiller is executive producer of this Oscar-Worthy documentary which has the elements of a good thriller. Rated PG-13. 5 Stars.
PAPER HEART It looks like a documentary, but it’s actually a mockumentary starring comedienne Charlene Yi, as herself, a woman who doesn’t believe in love. She’s traveling the country interviewing people about their views on love when she meets actor Michael Cera and bingo, a romance starts. This of course changes the whole plan for someone who doesn’t believe in love. And it changes the whole direction of the movie. Cute in spots, and funny at times. PG 13. 3 Stars.
JULIE & JULIA It’s 1948 and Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, just arrived in Paris with her diplomat husband, played by Stanley Tucci. Julia needs something to do when she turns her love of food into a desire to learn about French cooking. Cut to present day New York, where Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams is bored with her government job talking to people on the phone. She likes to cook and with the encouragement of her husband, played by Chris Messina, Julie plans to cook her way through Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and blog about it. As the movie unfolds we go back and forth between 1948 Paris and present day New York watching both these real-life characters finding their passion and their success. Don’t see this one hungry. Strong performances based on two books. I liked it a lot. PG 13. 3.5 Stars.
FUNNY PEOPLE Directed by Judd Apatow, the R-rated story takes place in Los Angeles where three roommates played by Seth Rogan, Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill are all trying to make it in the world of comedy. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons a very successful comedian and film star who discovers he has a potentially incurable disease and is likely to die soon. George has acquaintances but no real friends. He hires Ira Wright, played by Seth Rogan to be his assistant, gofer, and occasional whipping boy as he tries to make some sense of his life and make amends with those he’s wronged, including former girlfriend Laura, played by Leslie Mann. After about 90 minutes the story moves to Marin County where a social visit to Laura’s home turns out to be much more than that and leads to a huge confrontation with her husband, played by Eric Bana. Funny, insiteful, real and wandering, Funny People gives us a brief look into the world of standup comics which is not always funny. 2 Hours, 26 minutes, a bit too long, but worth the price of a ticket. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
THE UGLY TRUTH The Ugly Truth is a somewhat edgy, even raunchy romantic comedy. Katherine Heigl plays Abby, the producer of a TV morning show in Sacramento. Gerard Butler plays Mike, who dishes out no-holds-barred dating advice for women on his local cable show. Abby’s station hires Mike to do a regular segment on her show, without her knowledge or permission. They hate each other from the very beginning but Abby gets advice from Mike about her love life and a kind of ‘friendship’ develops. And if you can’t see where this predictable plot is going during the first 10 minutes of The Ugly Truth, you’ve never been to the movies before. As Mr. Wrong becomes Mr. Right I laughed quite a few times and while many critics are panning this one, I say “The Ugly Truth” is a decent date movie. Women will like it more than men, but that’s true of most romantic comedies. Rated R, 95 Minutes. 3.5 Stars
500 DAYS OF SUMMER Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom who falls for Zooey Deschanel’s character, an irrisistable woman named Summer. So instead of the movie being about an extra long summer, 500 days, as I originally thought, it’s actually about the relationship between Tom and Summer. A relationship that lasts 500 days. It’s a boy gets girl boy loses girl, boy might get girl back story told in a very clever way. A romantic comedy more from a man’s point of view but never the less a fun date movie with solid performances. Rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE Potter fans are in for a treat as Harry and his friends are more grown up and it’s a new year at Hogwarts. And with the new year comes serious danger as the dark lord attempts eliminate a very important person in Harry’s life. Can he stop the evil from happening? Great special effects in this darker and more dramatic chapter of the ongoing series. Rated PG. 4 Stars.
BRUNO Sacha Baron Cohen, who gave us Borat is back as Bruno, a gay, very outrageous Austrian model who travels the world and ultimately comes to the United States and Hollywood in his search for fortune and fame. If you thought Borat was over the top, wait until you see Bruno. Very R rated, with waaayyyy over the top stunts by Bruno. Cameos by Paula Abdul, Harrison Ford, Ron Paul, Bono, Chris Martin, Elton John, Slash, Snoop Dogg, Sting. La Toya Jackson was part of the movie until the death of her brother Michael Jackson, when the movie company decided to remove the footage. If you liked Borat you’ll probably like Bruno as much, maybe more. If you didn’t see Borat, rent it first, to get yourself prepared. Did I say Bruno is very R rated? That might be an understatement. 3.5. Stars.
PUBLIC ENEMIES Christian Bale and Johnny Depp, a couple of Hollywood heavyweights, hit the screen in “Public Enemies”. It’s an authentic looking 1930’s era gangster movie that tells the story of John Dillinger, perhaps the greatest bank robber of all time and the birth of the FBI. Depp is Dillinger, who loves robbing banks and when he’s told his success won’t last forever he says he’s having too much fun to quit. Billy Crudup plays J. Edger Hoover who’s building the Federal Bureau of Investigation and appoints a top lawman, played by Christian Bale, to get Dillinger. The master bank robber finds his sweetheart in a lovely hat check girl, played by Marion Cotillard and takes her along for the ride. Some clever prison breaks, lots of violence, but overall I found Public Enemies less than excellent. Only so-so for me. The look is realistic, but for me the acting was rather flat and at 140 minutes, the film is too long. Rated R. 3 Stars
MY SISTER’S KEEPER Sara and Brian, played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric are happily married with a son and daughter. When they discover their daughter Kate has leukemia they opt to have another child. Anna is born with the hope the baby might be able to provide genetic help for her sick sister. Kate gets sicker, Anna takes drastic steps to avoid prolonging Kate’s life and everybody in the audience cries like a baby. Not a happy movie, but very moving film. Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin Sofia Vassilieva, Joan Cusack and Evan Ellingston all provide strong performances. Rated PG-13. 108 Mins. 3.5 Stars.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN I didn’t see the first Transformers movie so I don’t know what happened before. In this one, right off the top there’s a big battle between Decepticons and Autobots and eventually I found out the future of the planet and the universe is in jeopardy. Decepticons are bad, Autobots are good. Good guy is Shia LaBeouf is back and off to college only to freak out because he’s got some weird symbols in his brain and then he’s in Egypt looking for something called the matrix and the military is heavily involved in protecting him and his girlfriend, played by Megan Fox, from decepticons which are falling from space like rain. Sensory overload to say the least, but I kind of liked it. Scorpinox, Starscream, Megatron, Optimus Prime, they’re all there. It's too long. If you’re a true Transformers fan you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. Costarring Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro. PG-13. 3 Stars.
MOON The story takes place in the near future. Sam Rockwell plays a lone guy, working on the far side of the moon for a company that mines Helium-3, an element that provides 70 percent of the Earth’s energy needs. His contract has him on the Moon for three years, and just about the time he’s due to go home his health is detiorating. Sam sees someone who looks like a younger version of himself. Is he hallucinating or is there something else going on? Great performance by Sam Rockwell. Kevin Spacey provides the voice of the computer. I loved this movie. Rated R. 4.5 Stars.
THE PROPOSAL Sandra Bullock plays Margaret, a ruthless high powered book editor. Ryan Reynolds plays Andrew, her slaving assistant. When the immigration authorities tell Margaret her visa is up and she has to return to her native Canada, she tells them she’s engaged to Andrew and she forces him to go along with the ruse. They’re off to Alaska to meet his parents in a fish-out-of-water comedy with an adequate dose of romance. Although it’s predictable I liked this movie. Of course Sandra Bullock is still one of my favorite actors, so that may be a factor. Solid performances by costars Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson and Betty White. PG-13 3.5 Stars
YEAR ONE Jack Black and Michael Cera play early primitive humans who have to escape their village to save their lives. They end up in an old-testament biblical odyssey with lots of characters and a less-than-solid script. Somewhat reminiscent of “Blazing Saddles” without the laughs. Costars include: Oliver Platt, David Cross, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Vinnie Jones and Hank Azaria. PG 13. 2 Stars
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 In this remake of the 1974 movie, Denzel Washington stars as a dispatcher in the high-tech control center of the New York subway system. John Travolta and three thugs take over a subway car with 18 hostages and demand 10 million dollars in one hour. To add to drama, if the money doesn’t show up on time Travolta’s character promises to shoot one hostage for every minute past the one hour deadline. James Gandolfini plays the mayor in this thriller filled with suspense and tension. Rated R. 106 mins. 3.5 Stars.
AWAY WE GO Burt and Verona, played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are living near his parents in Colorado and expecting their first child. But when mom and dad announce they’re moving to Belgium, with no desire to hang around to see their grandchild, Burt and Verona travel the country looking for a better place to live. We go along for the ride which is funny at times and sometimes sweet. Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhall costar. It’s a dramatic comedy that I enjoyed a lot, because I really like the actors. Rated R 97 Mins. 3 Stars.
THE HANGOVER Two days before his wedding the groom to be goes to Vegas with his two groomsmen and his future brother-in-law. The first night they toast to a night they will never forget, but when they wake up the next morning, none of the guys can remember anything. They discover the night before yielded a baby, a tiger, a new wife, a missing tooth, a trip to the hospital, Asian gamblers and Mike Tyson, but nobody can remember what Costarring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham and Raechel Harris. Rated R. 99 Mins. 3.5 Stars.
LAND OF THE LOST Someone suggested Land of the Lost was an idea for a theme park ride, when someone said, ‘hey, lets make a movie too’. I have to agree. Based loosely on the TV series, Will Ferrell plays Dr. Rick Marshall who created a machine that transports him and Anna Friel and Danny McBride into a vortex and ultimately the land of the lost. But what is really lost here is a script, and a story and a movie that’s worth the price of a ticket. At one point Will Ferrell’s character says something like “Bad things happen in caves, you can see that in movies.” In my opinion you’re get more entertainment in a cave that from Land of The Lost. Wait for the video, it will be here soon. PG-13. 113 mins. 1 Star.
UP UP is the exhilarating story of a 78 year old geezer and an 8-year old boy on the adventure of a lifetime as the old man’s house flies to South America while tied to hundreds of helium balloons. Another terrific movie from Pixar, who gave us “Toy Story” and “Wall-E”. Featuring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Delroy Lindo, John Ratzenberger and others. Rated PG 89 Mins. 4 Stars.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM-BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN Ben Stiller is back as Larry, no longer a museum guard but a successful inventor making millions selling his products with infomercials. A visit to he old workplace, the Museum of Natural History reveals his old friends from the first movie are being packed up and moved to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. where they will be stored in the basement forever. Larry is moved to save them, but discovers an evil pharaoh wants the tablet from the first movie and is willing to destroy everything and everyone to get it. Larry has to save the Smithsonian and its inhabitants before the sun comes up. It’s great family entertainment. Not big laughs but delightfully entertaining. Costarring Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams, Jonah Hill, Steve Coogan, and Ricky Gervais. PG-13. 3.5 Stars
TERMINATOR SALVATION The year is 2018 and the machines-controlled by the master machine Skynet–are killing off the humans. There are small pockets of resistance, but the machines seem to be winning. They are ruthless and devastating. They’re also capturing humans and transporting them to the Skynet headquarters to be killed later. John Conner, played by Christian Bale has the task of saving the world. And Marcus Wright, played by Sam Worthington has to decide if he is a machine or a human. Outstanding action, special effects, explosions like you’ve rarely seen, and a truly scary scenario of machines out to get you. Terminator fans will likely love it and also understand the time-travel element of the story. I thought it was overkill. Costarring Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter and Anton Yelchin. Rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars
ANGELS AND DEMONS Novelist Dan Brown first wrote “Angels And Demons” then “The DaVinci Code”. On the screen the order is reversed. So “Angels And Demons” is a prequel that became a sequel. But like most sequels, it’s not as good as the first one. Tom Hanks again plays Harvard religion expert Robert Langdon who is called to Rome to help solve the mystery of four kidnapped cardinals, possible successors to the recently deceased Pope. The clock is ticking as the kidnapper promises to kill one cardinal every hour until his demands are met, otherwise he’ll destroy the Vatican. It’s rush rush, hurry up with a connect-the-dots plot and I didn’t like it half as much as The DaVinci Code. Ewen McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard and Ayelet Zurer co-star. PG-13. 2.5 Stars.
MANAGEMENT Jennifer Aniston is the producer and star of this quirky romantic comedy about an unlikely encounter that leads to a one-sided romance. Aniston plays Sue, a traveling saleswoman who makes a stop at a motel where Mike, played by Steve Zahn works. Mike works at the motel because his parents own the motel0. When Sue checks in Mike makes a move, and when she checks out, Mike makes a cross-country trip to find the woman he’s fallen head over heels for. But Sue has a rich boyfriend, played by Woody Harrelson, and Mike doesn’t have much but a burning desire for Sue. It’s a quiet little movie with sweet moments and a couple of surprises. Overall I liked it. Rated R. 3 Stars
THE LIMITS OF CONTROL This film tested my limits of control to keep from walking out of the theater. It’s a slow, un-interesting story about an emotionless hit man, played by Isaach De Bankole. who keeps getting instructions to go here, do that, wait two days, etc. I waited, for what seemed like two days for something to happen and it didn’t. Nicely photographed, but that’s not why I want to see a film. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and costarring Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rated R and way too long. 0 Stars.
STAR TREK Star Trek the TV series started in 1966, “Star Trek the Motion Picture” hit the big screens in 1979, 30 years ago. But as in Wolverine, last week’s big hit, this “Star Trek” is a Prequel. We go back to the time James Kirk was a kid. We go back to Spock struggling with being half Vulcan and half human. And the trip is fantastic. The story about how the crew of the starship Enterprise and its crew came to be and how they were able to “go where no man has gone before” is a movie well worth seeing. The film is perfectly cast and the characters are convincingly like the originals might have been at an earlier age. In a time travel sequence an aging Leonard Nimoy shows up as an aging Spock. Solid special effects, good action and a great story means the Star Trek movie phenomenon isn’t over, it’s just getting started. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Soe Saldana, Simon Peg, John Cho, Karl Urban, and Winona Ryder. Rated PG-13. 4 Stars.
BATTLE FOR TERRA Computer generated animation, also in 3-D at some theaters. The residents of the planet Terra, live in peace and harmony without a care and without any conflict. But that changes when the last surviving members of the human race show up, looking for a new planet to inhabit. The Terrian’s aren’t prepared for war and the humans have nothing to lose. Featuring the voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Luke Wilson and Brian Cox. Very entertaining and excellent in 3-D. 85 Minutes. Rated PG 3.5 Stars.
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST(Clips on Interviews/Reviews Page) Matthew McConaughey plays Conner Mead, a fashion photographer who loves his freedom and loves women, hundreds of women, maybe more. And he doesn’t believe in marriage. When Conner shows up for the wedding of his brother, played by Breckin Meyer, he runs into his childhood sweetheart Jenny, played by Jennifer Garner. Conner’s attitude is likely to spoil the wedding but after a spooky confrontation with the ghost of his dead uncle-played by Michael Douglas, the womanizer is forced to take a look at his life, past, present and future, through the ghosts of girlfriends past. A long setup, but the pace gets better and so does the fun. PG-13 3.5 Stars.
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE This prequel tells the story of how a mutant named Logan became Wolverine. Jam-packed with action and special effects we see the trials and tribulations of the character that made Hugh Jackman a superstar. From the battles of war to the battles with his evil brother, played by Liev Schreiber to the loss of his true love to submitting to a top secret experiment that makes him basically invincible-it’s almost non-stop action. Along the way we meet mutants that X-Men fans will recognize. For non-fans, the motorcycle chases, helicopter crashes, fight scenes and special effects will provide comic book eye-candy worth the price of a ticket. Co-starring Danny Huston, Will.I.Am, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Durand and Lynn Collins. Rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
17 AGAIN Zac Efron, who’s made a career of singing and dancing his way to success in “Hairspray” and the High School Musical franchise, shows up in “17 Again” where he doesn’t sing and only dances with cheerleaders. It’s a plot used many times before in films like “Big” “13 Going on 30” and “Freaky Friday”. Here’s the story. 20 years out of high school, Mike O’Donnell, played by Matthew Perry has a dead-end life. His wife is leaving him and his career is going nowhere. If only he would have done things differently when he was a high school basketball star. If only he could do it all again. Bingo, he’s 17 again. But now he looks like Zac Efron. He’s the same guy, but back in high school-with his own kids-in the biggest do-over of his life. I found “17 Again” more entertaining than I expected. Costarring Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon and Michelle Trachtenberg. Rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars
STATE OF PLAY Cal McCaffrey, played by Russell Crowe is a reporter for the Washington Globe. Stephen Collins, played by Ben Affleck is a U.S. congressman. The guys have been friends since college and now their relationship takes on a new dimension as murder meets politics in D.C. The congressman’s girlfriend dies mysteriously and a couple of other murders have connections, too obvious to be coincidental. Especially because representative Collins heads a committee investigating a ‘Blackwater’ type security firm with expertise in killing. Cal, the reporter, uncovers a possible connection and conspiracy that will make headlines to rival those of the Watergate scandal. With great music, outstanding performances, and escalating tension “State of Play” grabs you and pulls you in. An excellent thriller with a surprise ending. Costarring Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Daniels and Jason Bateman. PG-13 3.5 Stars
OBSERVE AND REPORT
Seth Rogan plays Ronnie, a security guard at the mall who wishes he was a real cop. Ronnie has a big crush on Brandi (Anna Faris) who works the cosmetic counter and that’s more important to him than catching a flasher who’s terrorizing female shoppers. Meanwhile, someone is breaking into the mall at night and stealing lots of merchandise. Ray Liotta plays a detective who’s been there, done that, and thinks Ronnie is a joke but Ronnie thinks the same about him. If male frontal nudity, date rape, and elderly incontinence is your think you’ll like it. My opinion is it’s a comedy without laughs. For Observe and Report I observed, and my report is save your money. Rated R. 1.5 Stars
While there have been a lot of movies about immigrants after they get to this country, “Sin Nombre” tells the story of two making their way from Central America TO this country. A powerful, sometimes painful and violent movie, in Spanish with subtitles. Rated R. If you speak Spanish you will love it. If you don’t mind subtitles, you will love it. Sin Nombre is one of those rare films that make you feel like these are real people, not actors, and you’re watching real life unfold in front of you. It’s very real. Probably because the director used unknowns and amateurs in the roles with remarkable success. This is one of those films you will remember. And I recommend it. Rated R 4 Stars
ALIEN TRESPASS A throwback to the science fiction movies of the 1950’s, Alien Trespass begins in 1957 when what looks like a ‘shooting star’ streaks across the sky. What nobody in the small town knows yet, is that that shooting star is really an alien spaceship that crash lands in the desert. A non-threatening alien named URP survives the crash but a monster-type creature-a Ghota, escapes from the space ship and is on the loose in the town, gobbling up residents. Campy, funny, corney and for me very entertaining. Costarring Eric McCormack as a scientist professor, whose body is taken over by URP, not to be confused with Burp. Rated PG. 3 Stars
DUPLICITY Julia Roberts and Clive Owen reunite as spies involved in corporate espionage They each have “real” spy experience working for the CIA and MI6, but now they’re in the private sector working for competing multinational companies in a very profitable business. They’re each working for a piece of the action It’s foreign intrigue, on a corporate level with lots of flashbacks and time shifts which might be confusing. Overall, a good spy movie about two rival agents who are romantically involved, unable to trust each other, and looking to make a big score. PG-13 3 Stars
KNOWING Nicolas Cage stars as a college professor who thinks everything that happens in the universe-and on earth-is just random and meaningless. When his son takes possession of a 50-year old piece of paper with numbers on it, the professor discovers a pattern that predicts major disasters and death tolls and maybe the end of the world. He sets out to prevent death and destruction and gets drawn into a series of events he can’t control. Outstanding performances in an edge-of-your seat thriller with suspense, cosmic overtones, and great special effects. PG-13 4 Stars.
SUNSHINE CLEANING A quirky comedy about two sisters who go into the crime-scene cleanup business dealing with the messy results of suicides, murders and other crimes. Starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, it’s a little movie about an average family trying to make their dreams come true. Strong performances in a movie that’s funny and sad at the same time, but a very good film. Costarring Steve Zahn and Alan Arkin as the girls’ father, it reminded me of “Little Miss Sunshine”, without as many laughs. Rated R. 4 Stars.
THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD John Malkovich stars as The Great Buck Howard, a once famous “mentalist” now playing the small town circuit as a has-been magic act. His new assistant, played by Colin Hanks, took the job to get into the entertainment business, but now he’s baby-sitting a guy who still thinks he’s the best in the business, and maybe his is. Buck Howard has more than one trick up his sleeve and John Malkovich plays the role perfectly. Very entertaining. Costarring Emily Blunt, Tom Hanks, and Griffin Dunne. PG 4 Stars
RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN Dwayne Johnson, formerly The Rock, plays Jack Bruno, he’s a Las Vegas cab driver with possible ties to the mob and he used to drive in the demolition derby. There’s a UFO convention in town and Jack refers to UFO believers as ‘nut jobs’. When Sara and Seth, a couple of teenagers appear in Jack’s cab and ask him to drive into the desert he’s suspicious but they’ve got a big wad of cash so off they go. The cab is being chased by three black SUVs and Jack thinks it’s the mob, but his passengers know the real reason is because they are space aliens with supernatural powers and their flying saucer has crashed. Jack reluctantly agrees to help the earthling-like teens who are on a mission to save their planet. They’ve got to get back home and they need their spaceship back but the government has it stored in a secret place on Witch Mountain. It’s a race to Witch Mountain with lots of action, special effects and pretty good entertainment. PG 3 Stars.
WATCHMEN Based on the graphic novel, Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985. Richard Nixon is the President, the U.S. and the Soviet Union are heading for a nuclear showdown. A band of has-been costumed superheroes is trying to figure out who killed one of their own as the world approaches a nuclear holocaust. It’s a mystery with solid special effects and a heavy dose of violence. Slow in spots and, at more than two-and-a-half hours, too long. Probably better for those who know the story-but maybe not. I didn’t read the book, but I liked it. Starring Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
UNDER THE SEA 3-D No need to ever snorkel or scuba dive again after seeing this magnificent film. See it in the IMAX format if you can. The 3-D is extraordinary. Rated G. 4 Stars. THE INTERNATIONAL Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent who is out to bust an international bank that deals in money laundering, arms dealing and financing terrorists, rebel armies and shady governments around the world. The New York assistant D.A., played by Naomi Watts is teamed with Clive to bring down the bank. Problem is, everybody and anybody who has tried to interfere with the bank’s business ends up very dead very soon. It’s a globe-trotting, foreign intrigue thriller with financial overtones that play into the headlines of the day. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC Isla Fischer stars as Rebeca Bloomwood, a fun-loving girl who loves to shop and wants more than anything to work for her favorite fashion magazine. She gets a job for a financial magazine that’s part of the same company, thinking she can work her way into her ideal job. Things get crazy and Rebecca has to go to extremes to avoid being discovered as shopaholic whose past is not a pretty picture. Fun, lighthearted romantic comedy with a happy ending. Based on the book and starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman. Women will like it much more than men. PG, 3 Stars.
THE PINK PANTHER 2 Steve Martin is back as the bumbling Inspector Clusseau in a movie that just bumbles along. Good supporting stars like John Cleese, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina and Aishwarya Rai, don't help the film at all. In fact I wondered why these talented actors would even be in this movie. Unless you're nine years old, wait for the video, then wat some more. PG 1 Star.
PUSH Dakota Fanning shows up in PUSH as a psychically gifted teenager in a world of psychic espionage where a government agency, called The Division, is trying to perfect the perfect psychic warrior and while they’re doing it, they’re killing psychics of all persuasions. Shost in Hong Kong with special effects galore, over-the-top stupid action scenes and a video-game feel, combined with a mish-mash of plots and subplots make “Push” one of the most unwatchable films I have ever seen. I thought it was awful and wanted somebody to push me out of the theater. Co-starring Chris Evans, Camilla Belle and Djimon Hounsou. PG-13. ½ Star.
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU Check out the cast: Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston , Drew Barrymore, Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly (HBO's Entourage) as Conor, Bradley Cooper (Yes Man) as Ben; Ginnifer Goodwin as Gigi; Scarlett Johansson as Anna; Kris Kristofferson, and Justin Long as Alex. The characters are all dealing with their inability to have the relationship they want and that means bad dates, disappointing dates, cheating on your spouse, trying to be the exception instead of the rule of how these things go. But for me there was nothing exceptional about “He’s Just Not That Into you” and so I was just not that into the film. Definitely a movie for the ladies. Some decent performances, but overall disappointing. PG 13 2.5 Stars.
THE UNINVITED It’s a remake of a Korean horror film where Emily Browning plays Ana, a young girl who is released from a psychiatric facility because she’s finally able to handle the trauma of her mother’s death. When she comes home to live with her father, played by David Strathairn, she discovers dad has a new fiancé, played by Elizabeth Banks. She used to be mom’s nurse-before the accident that killed her. Yes, she’s a beauty, but that doesn’t mean she’s not evil underneath. Some scary moments, creepy dream sequences and a twist at the end that’s quite a surprise. Rated PG-13 3 Stars
INKHEART Brendan Fraser plays a guy who can make fictional characters to become real simply by reading the books in which they appear. He takes his daughter on a quest to find a book he needs to read to make things right from the last time he read it. The film starts out as an interesting fantasy adventure and soon morphs into a huge mish-mash of sidebar stories that go everywhere except in a logical direction. Big production, good special effects but a horrible script. OK for kids but I was disappointed. Wait for the video for sure. Starring Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, and Jim Broadbent. Rated PG 1 Star.
LAST CHANCE HARVEY Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson in a romantic drama about love after 50. Dustin Hoffman is Harvey Shine, whose career as a jingle writer isn’t going so well. Harvey’s in London for his daughter’s wedding when he meets Kate in the airport bar. And the rest of the story is what good movies are made of. Good performances, sweet, funny and touching. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin PG 13 3.5 Stars
DEFIANCE Holocaust film done differently. Base on the true story of a group of Eastern European Jews on the run from the Germans, hiding out in the forest and fighting back. The Bielski brothers, three Russians played by Daniel Craig, Live Schreiber and Jamie Bell hide out in the forest and more refugees join them and a community forms. The Nazis are hunting them in the woods and from the air and the brothers have a falling-out about what course of action to take. Eventually more than 1000 people are living in the forest, hiding from the Nazis over the course of the war. Action, drama and good performances. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
GRAN TORINO Clint Eastwood is now the AARP version of Dirty Harry. He’s Walt Kowalski, living in a changing Detroit neighborhood where-surrounded by other ethnicities, he is pretty much the only white guy. Walt is a Korean War veteran, bitter and bigoted but he loves his vintage Ford Gran Torino. When a neighbor kid seems destined for a life in a gang, Walt takes steps to change the situation and a lot of other things he doesn’t like. Classic Eastwood. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
BRIDE WARS Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway play Liv and Emma, friends since children they’ve been planning their weddings all their lives. Now in their mid-20s they’re both on the way to the alter and fantastic weddings at New York’s Plaza hotel, just like they’ve always dreamed. But wait, Liv’s and Emma’s weddings are scheduled for the same day which completely upsets the plans they had to each participate in the other’s celebration. So instead of combining the event in a double ceremony the girls set out to destroy each others special day. It’s a Bride War!!! With conniving and slapstick it’sbetter than I expected but that’s still not very good. Rated PG. 2 Stars.
THE WRESTLER Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a 50-year old broken down wrestler who still goes into the ring on weekends and works odd jobs to pay the bills. Randy takes a liking to Cassidy, a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. She tries to help him patch up the broken relationship with his daughter. The Wrestler is a great study of what one man is willing to do to ‘be somebody’. The film is a downer, but Rourke is great. Rated R. 4 Stars.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are reunited for the first time since ‘Titanic’ as Frank and April, a 1950’s married couple living in suburbia. Conforming to the norm they seem to be on the right track but each wants something different for them and it leads to the downfall of their marriage. Powerful performances but another downer story. Based on the novel. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
THE READER A young student gets involved with an older woman in post-war Berlin. He’s a teenager, she’s 30-something. He reads to her, and she makes love to him. A nice arrangement…until she disappears without an explanation. Years later he finds her on trial for war crimes. Kate Winslet, Ralph Feinnes, David Kross. Great performances. Rated R. 4 Stars THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON Brad Pitt stars as a man who is very old at birth and as he ages, he actually gets younger, until he dies as a baby. Excellent and long. Similar to Forest Gump where we followed the entire life of the lead character from young to old. But this time we follow Benjamin Button from old to young. Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Julia Ormond. Oscar-worthy performances and engrossingly entertaining. PG-13 4.5 Stars
BEDTIME STORIES Adventure comedy starring ADAM SANDLER as Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true. He attempts to take advantage of the phenomenon, incorporating his own aspirations into one outlandish tale after another, but it's the kids' unexpected contributions that turn Skeeter's life upside down. PG 3 Stars. VALKYRIE Tom Cruise plays a Nazi officer who leads a plot to kill Adolph Hitler. Risking his life he assembles a group who wants Hitler eliminated to save the country. Even though we know the outcome, the film creates great tension and suspense. Very well done. PG-13. 4 Stars
YES MAN Jim Carrey plays a guy whose life isn’t going that well until he attends a seminar that encourages you to say “YES” to everything. Once he starts saying yes, his life changes for the better AND he meets a great gal, played by Zooey Deschinal. Solid entertainment. PG-13 3.5 Stars
DOUBT Meryl Streep delivers another Oscar-Worthy performance as a nun who suspects the parish priest, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is having an improper relationship with a student. Solid drama and great performances. PG-13. 4 Stars.
SEVEN POUNDS Will Smith is an IRS agent out to help people but we’re not sure why until the middle of the movie. Strong performances, sappy in spots and for me, it didn’t work. Rosario Dawson is excellent. PG-13 2 Stars
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL Keanu Reeves plays an alien who comes to earth to save the planet from the destructive ways of humans. Jennifer ConnelLy plays a scientist, and Will Smith’s son Jaden plays her adopted son. Lots of special effects but nothing special about this remake of the 1951 classic. PG-13 2 Stars.
Directed by Ron Howard it’s the story of how David Frost, a British comedian/talk-show host, did a series of television interviews with the only President of the United States to ever resign from office. Frost negotiated with, and paid, Nixon a lot of money and risked his career to expose the truth behind Nixon’s acts which led to his resignation. Frank Langella plays Nixon, Michael Sheen is Frost. Co-starring Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall and Toby Jones. Excellent performances. Rated R. 4 Stars NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS A great ensemble cast holiday comedy about a Puerto Rican family converging at the their parents home in Chicago to celebrate the season and the safe return from Iraq of the youngest brother, played by Freddy Rodriquez. Parents are played by Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Peña. Additional family and friends played by Luis Guzman, John Leguizamo Vanessa Ferlito and Debra Messing. Story includes an old flame, revenge, in-law stress, jealousy, and a surprise divorce announcement. I liked this film a lot. I got to know all the characters and cared about what was happening to them. For me that’s a good movie. PG-13 4 Stars.
CADILLAC RECORDS With a solid cast, “Cadillac Records” traces the steps of early R&B music that came out of Chicago in the 1950’s and 60’s. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James and Chuck Berry put Chess Records on the map and everybody got a new Cadillac, thus the name “Cadillac Records.” The story covers the turbulent lives of the artists who came from nowhere and eneded up on the top of the charts. Adrien Brody, plays Leonard Chess the white Polish immigrant who signed black artists and gave them a shot at fame while taking much of their profits for himself. The outstanding cast including Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Cedric the Entertainer as songwriter Willie Dixon, Mos Def as Chuck Betty and Beyonce Knowles as Etta James. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
AUSTRALIA Lady Sarah Ashley, played by Nicole Kidman, travels from England to Faraway Downs, her husband’s cattle ranch in Australia in1939, only to discover her husband has been murdered. Someone wants to buy the ranch but Sarah wants to keep it and deliver 1500 head of cattle to the military in Darwin. But to do that she’ll need a cattle driver and that’s where “Drover”, played by Hugh Jackman comes in. What follows is an epic story about love, greed, impending war, and the racial divide between the Australians and the Aboriginals. It’s rather like the “Gone With the Wind” of this century. Great shots of Australia and big action scenes including a stampede, and the Japanese attack on Darwin. Two hours 45 minutes. PG-13. 3.5 Stars
MILK It’s not about the dairy product but Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States. The film traces the last eight years in the life of Milk, played superbly by Sean Penn, as he becomes a community activist and ultimately a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. Outstanding performances by Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin who plays the council member who ultimately murders Harvey Milk and the mayor of San Francisco. Oscar worthy. Rated R. 4 Stars
FOUR CHRISTMASES Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon play a happy couple who try to avoid spending Christmas with their respective families, but this year they’re caught trying to sneak out of town. Because his and her parents are divorced they’ve got to make four stops on Christmas day. What happens is a combination of slapstick, tragedy, comedy and drama. Co-starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen and Jon Favreu. Not all that funny but touching in spots. PG-13 2.5 Stars.
BOLT Animated feature-in 3-D, about Bolt, a dog with a black lightning bolt on the side of his white fur. He’s a Hollywood superstar on a television series. Bolt watches over his owner Penny, and rescues her from villains and kidnappers. Thing is, Bolt doesn’t know the difference between his fake world and the real world because he lives at the studio where the producers want him to believe everything that happens to him, and his superpowers are real. When Bolt is accidentally shipped to New York and finds himself on the streets, with no powers at all, he’s desperate to find Penny. That begins the adventure of a cross-country trip with a cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino. Featuring the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Malcolm McDowell and James Lipton. 96 Minutes. Rated PG. 3.5 Stars.
TWILIGHT Teenager Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart leaves Phoenix and moves in with her dad in Forks, Washington. She’s the new kid at the high-school, which can be challenging and uncomfortable and it definitely is for Bella. Until she meets Edward Cullen, played by Robert Pattinson. Edward is like no other guy she’s ever met-in many ways, but mostly because HE’S A VAMPIRE! Edward, like his vampire family, doesn’t have fangs, and doesn’t drink human blood, only animal’s, but you never know when someone might want to change their diet. That’s a risk that Bella is willing to take because she is nuts about this guy! And when I saw Twilight, the audience of mostly women and girls was squealing with delight-obviously fans of the book. Fans of the book will love it. The movie is mostly a romantic drama which I found quite entertaining. 2 hours. Rated PG 13. 3 Stars.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE Following “Casino Royale”, Daniel Craig is back as James Bond, agent 007 in “Quantum of Solace”. The film begins with a fast paced car chase ending in a crash and putting a roughed up Bond in Tuscany. From there its an international chase fest, and slug fest that takes us to London, Haiti, Austria, Back to Italy, then Bolivia. Craig plays one un-happy James Bond who is out for revenge for the loss of his love in the last film, and out to catch a real bad guy who seems to want to control the world’s oil, but he’s after something more important than that. Lots of action, chases-on foot, in cars and airplanes. Plenty of shooting and hand-to-hand 007 fighting where James gets pretty dirty and bloody. But none of the standard James Bond stuff. There are no cool spy gadgets, Bond doesn’t order a martini (shaken-not stirred) he doesn’t say, “Bond, James Bond”, and doesn’t break a smile. At 105 minutes this is the shortest James Bond movie. Co-starring Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, and Mathieu Amalric. Rated PG-13. 3 stars.
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK If you like your movies extremely weird, Synecdoche is for you, opening only at the landmark in hillcrest. Starring phillip Seymour Hoffman as a very sick guy who wants to do something outstanding before he dies. It’s about sickness, loneliness and death…I think. This is the first film directed by Charlie Kaufman screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich. Co-starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Williams, Tom Noonan, Emily Watson and Dianne Wiest. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman who should not direct another film any time soon. Rated R. 1 Star.
SOUL MEN Samuel L. Jackson plays Louis and the late Bernie Mac plays Floyd, two-thirds of a famous R&B group that broke up when the lead singer Marcus, played by John Legend went solo. That was 20 years ago and Marcus has just died. So Louis and Floyd, (Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac)who haven’t spoken for years are driving across the country in Floyd’s car to a memorial concert at the Apollo theater in New York. It’s a road trip movie with two guys who don’t like each other but bound by their common music and past relationship with each other and one woman. Isaac Hayes appears as himself. In August-in the real world, he and Bernie Mac died within days of each other. In “Soul Men” Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson both deliver solid performances as actors and singers, in a predictable and entertaining film. Stay for the credits. Rated R. 3 Stars.
ROLE MODELS A replay of the story about adults mentoring troubled kids. Paul Rudd is Danny and Sean William Scott is Wheeler, two guys who work for an energy drink company and spend their days going to schools to tell kids to say no to drugs and ‘yes’ to their product. One day Danny flips out-gets arrested, and the guys avoid jail by agreeing to community service with “Sturdy Wings” a ‘Big Brother’ type organization. Danny is mentor to Augie, (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) a geeky kid who is stuck in medieval fantasy role-playing games. Wheeler’s assignment is helping 9-year old Ronnie, who is fatherless, angry and swears like a drunken sailor. Raunchy, yet funny is spots with a sweet ending. Co-starring Elizabeth Banks. Rated R. 3 Stars.
CHANGELING Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins in 1928 Los Angeles. She’s a single working mother who goes off to work one Saturday leaving her nine-year old son Walter at home. When Christine comes home Walter is gone. Five months later, the LAPD finds and returns Walter to his mother, but according to her, he is not her son. He’s shorter, his dental records don’t match, and shouldn’t a mother know? The more she claims the boy is an imposter the more the police try to discredit the mother, eventually putting her into a psychiatric hospital. The entire Los Angeles power structure becomes embroiled in the search for the truth. This is an emotionally powerful and compelling true story told by director Clint Eastwood with an Oscar worthy performance by Angelina Jolie. Rated R. 4.5 Stars.
ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO The latest in the crop of raunchy comedies. Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks play Zack and Miri. They’re friends since high school and now roommates deep in debt and needing cash. Their utilities are shut off, they’re behind on their rent and on and on. The title of the film tells us how they decide to make some money. And what happens while doing it is basically an outrageous, over-the-top comedy which ultimately ends up being a very sweet story. Directed by Kevin Smith, with more F-words than you can count, it’s rated R. 3.5 Stars
ROCKNROLLA From director Guy Ritchie-who gave us “Snatch” and “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” comes “Rocknrolla”, another fast-paced crime caper film based in London. Starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson Thandie Newton, Jeremy Piven and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. Tom Wilkenson plays Lenny, a wheeler-dealer who thinks he calls all the shots in London. When a wealthy Russian wants to erect a building he and Lenny make a deal and that’s when seven million euros of the Russian’s money goes missing. Small-time crooks are behind the heist and violence ensues along with some pretty funny stuff involving a rock star who is supposed to be dead but isn’t. Good action, fast paced, and totally entertaining. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
PRIDE AND GLORY Four New York cops are killed one night and the whole thing smells of police involvement. There’s probably a bad cop on the force, maybe more than one. Noah Emmerich and Edward Norton are brothers on the police force, their father, played by Jon Voight is the chief detective, while Colin Farrell is a cop who goes his own way. It’s a moral dilemma between brothers because one of them might be involved with some rouge cops. We’ve seen repeated variations of this story in movies and TV shows before. Ends up it’s more than two hours of same old stuff. And PRIDE AND GLORY has all the usual cliché’s, like “I gotta do this my way”. “I can’t do this pop”. “We’re family and we stick together”. “You listen to me and listen good.” “We protect our own.” The strong performances of Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, John Voight and Noah Emmerich barely hold this otherwise run-of-the-mill story together. Rated R, 2 Stars.
W. Director Oliver Stone takes on the story of George W. Bush and his rise to power as the 43rd president of the United States. Josh Brolin plays “W” and Elizabeth Banks plays Laura, a librarian who marries the man who ends up serving two terms and putting the country into two wars. Stone doesn’t take a political position in this story which hasn’t ended yet but delivers chapters of Bush’s life, based on history and some assumptions too. No real surprises but strong performances, especially by Josh Brolin. Costarring Richard Dreyfus as Dick Cheney, James Cromwell as George Bush senior, Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush and Thandie Newton as Condoliza Rice and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell. PG-13 3.5 Stars
WHAT JUST HAPPENED Robert De Niro stars as Ben a Hollywood Producer at the top of his game who is juggling two ex-wives and two families along with actors, a stubborn writer, and the everyday craziness of working in Hollywood. Ben is producing a movie called “Fierceness” starring Sean Penn which should be a big hit, but is turning out to be a huge disaster, long before it’s released. Ben is also planning his next film starring Bruce Willis but Willis won’t shave his beard and that’s a problem. A funny, very inside look at the sometimes dog-eat-dog atmosphere of the movie capital of the world. DeNiro is excellent. Costarring John Tuturro, Robin Wright Penn, Stanley Tucci and Catherine Keener. RatedR. 3.5 Stars.
MAX PAYNE Mark Wahlberg plays Max Payne a New York detective whose mental stability has been questioned since the brutal-and unsolved murder of his wife and child. Max wants revenge and spends his every hour trying to find who was behind the crime that changed his life forever. And he does. Based on the video game the film is very stylized and darkly moody with solid special effects, a touch of the supernatural, and explosive shoot-em-up action. Costarring Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. PG-13. 3.5 Stars
RELIGULOUS Comedian Bill Maher reaches out to religious leaders as well as regular folk on the street, discussing the existence of God and the importance of organized religion. Bill is not a fan of religion and does not believe in God, and he has fun skewering people who do-including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Mormons, rabbis, priests, politicians, scientists, evangelical ministers, and even a preacher whose church is a converted truck. Some laughs but a little too much Bill Maher. Rated R. 3 Stars BODY OF LIES Leonardo Dicaprio plays Roger Ferris, a CIA operative in the Middle East and Russell Crowe plays his boss, Ed Hoffman, a veteran CIA guy at headquarters in the U.S. When Ferris discovers a terrorist link that could save a lot of lives and destroy a terrorist network, Hoffman wants to do it his way. Before long Jordanian intelligence is involved and neither man knows who to trust. CIA has the upper hand with high-flying, all-seeing drones, but the jihadists on the ground are using no-tech methods that are hard to track. Intrigue, mystery and tension prevail in this Ridley Scott directed film. Somewhat contrived and ultimately disappointing for me. Costarring Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani. Rated R. 3 Stars.
CITY OF EMBER When the world became uninhabitable the people moved underground. The planners of the underground city, the city of Ember, expected it would be safe to return to the surface in 200 years and they left plans for that. But the plans got lost. Now, the infrastructure of the city of Ember is breaking down and if the people don’t find their way out, they’ll perish. Fantasy adventure for the whole family and starring Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Mary Kay Place, Martin Landau, Toby Jones, Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway. Rated PG 3. Stars.
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE Simon Pegg plays Sidney, an obnoxious and uncouth gossip reporter in London who catches the eye of Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) the editor of Sharp, a hot New York Magazine. Sidney goes to work for Sharp and begins to do everything wrong and more wrong. Sidney is on a career suicide mission but amazingly doesn’t get fired. He manages to annoy everybody who can help him including a coworker played by Kirsten Dunst. Mostly annoying, sometimes funny and not very memorable. Costarring Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, and Max Minghella. Rated R. 2.5 Stars.
APPALOOSA Ed Harris and Viggo Mortenson play Virgil and Everett in 1882 New Mexico. The guys are roving ‘peace keepers’ who make their living enforcing the law in towns that hire them and Appaloosa New Mexico is such a town. The local bad guy, played by Jeremy Irons, has just murdered the town’s marshal and everybody in town wants justice but they’re afraid. So Virgil and Everett take on the job of bringing the bad guy in, and then a widow comes to town. She’s Allison French, played by Renee Zellweger, and it’s not long before she and Virgil, the Ed Harris character, are a couple. What’s a lawman to do, take care of lawman business, or take care of his girlfriend? Appaloosa is a very good western. Slow moving and slow talkin’ with a very authentic look. I liked it a lot. Rated R. 4 Stars.
NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST This is one of those “day in the life” films, but it’s a “night in the life” film, like “Superbad”. And it features some of the same actors. Michael Cera is Nick, trying to get over losing his girlfriend when he meets up with Norah, played by Kat Dennings. The two don’t have much in common except their taste in music. They end up spending a night in New York trying to find a secret show by a popular band and getting to know each other in a way that can only happen in the movies. Romantic comedy, fun, and funny in spots. Rated R. 3 Stars.
FLASH OF GENIUS Based on the true story of Bob Kearns, an inventor who came up with the intermittent windshield wiper in the 1960’s in Detroit. Ford wanted to buy it but changed their mind. Shortly thereafter the new Fords had intermittent wipers and Bob Kearns knew his idea had been stolen. He spent the rest of his life suing Ford motor company and trying to get the respect and recognition he deserved, even turning down thirty million dollars in the process. Starring Greg Kinnear as the inventor and costarring Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulrony and Alan Alda. Very well done with great performances by all. PG-13 3.5 Stars.
MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA Directed by Spike Lee this is the story of four American soldiers who are member of the U.S. Army’s all black ‘Buffalo Soldier’ division stationed in Italy during World War II. The story started out fine, but then took so many sideways turns and introduced so many sub-plots it wasn’t clear where it was going and I didn’t much care. At two hours and 40 minutes, it’s too long getting to a weak ending. Additionally Spike Lee isn’t very subtle with his message about racism and he keeps hitting us over the head with it again and again. Solid performances by good actors, including Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller, John Leguizamo, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Rated R. 2.5 Stars.
CHOKE Sam Rockwell plays Victor, a sex-addicted historical re-enactor who works at a Colonial theme park. His mother, played by Angelica Huston is in a nursing home and wants to share some secrets with her son before she dies. But she doesn’t recognize Victor as her son. Victor wants to know who his real father is, and to help him find out he sends a friend in to see his mother, masquerading as her son. For fun on the side, Victor scams unsuspecting wealthy people by choking in upscale restaurants hoping, after they save him, they’ll send him money. Strange, dark and sometimes funny, but not often enough for me. Rated R. 2.5 Stars
THE DUCHESS Keira Knightley becomes the Duchess of Devonshire when she marries the duke, played by Ralph Fiennes. She has the love and adoration of everyone in late 18th century England except her husband as she becomes a strong, independent player who ushers in political changes. Beautifully photographed, great costumes, good performances, but I didn’t really care about the characters. PG-13. 3 Stars.
TOWELHEAD Towelhead is about Jasira, a 13-yr old Arab-American girl played so very well by Summer Bishil. Jasira’s mother sends her to live with her very strict Lebanese father in Houston Texas. She’s struggling with all the normal challenges of being a teenage girl, plus the racism and cruelty of her classmates and here over-protective conservative father.. Starring Aaron Eckhart, Toni Colette, Maria Bello and Peter Macdissi.. Great performances, drama with some dark comedy. Directed by Alan Ball who did American Beauty and Six Feet Under. Rated R 3.5 Stars
GHOST TOWN Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a Manhattan dentist who dies during a routine colonoscopy. He’s only temporarily dead though, for about seven minutes. When he comes back to life he’s just fine, EXCEPT he can see dead people-a lot of them, and they can see him and they’re chasing him around town. Because each of those dead people want Pincus to take care of something they wanted done before they died. Unfinished business. Pincus wants no part of it, but Frank, played by Greg Kinnear and who is also dead convinces Pincus that if he helps him influence the life of his widowed wife, he will make all the other annoying dead people go away. Funny, and worth the price of a ticket Co-starring Tea Leone. Ricky Gervais is a terrific comedic talent. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
BURN AFTER READING The Coen brothers, who gave us Fargo, The Big Labowski, and No Country For Old Men, now bring us “Burn After Reading”. It’s a screwball comedy of errors starring John Malkovich as a fired CIA employee whose memoir accidentally falls into the hands of a couple of fitness gym employees, played by Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand. They think they’ve got some valuable spy stuff and want money for it, from Malkovich or anybody who will pay, including the Russians. Meanwhile, George Clooney’s character is having an affair with the fired CIA guy’s wife, played by Tilda Swinton and he also hooks up with Francis McDormand through an internet dating site. Thanks to an out-of-control script, things spin out of control early on but there are a few laughs. I especially enjoyed Brad Pitt being a complete doofus. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
THE WOMEN Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Debra Messing as five girlfriends, THE WOMEN is like Sex & The City without the sex and without a single man. “The Women” is a remake of a 1939 film I didn’t see and now wouldn’t want to. Annette Bening plays the editor of a woman’s magazine who discovers, from a manicurist that the husband of her best friend, played by Meg Ryan, is cheating on her. The girls have to figure out how to save their friend or her marriage or both, as they all deal with their own challenges of living in-or out-of their own romantic relationships. There is not one man in the entire film, just The Women. Forgettable. Among the all star cast: Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher and Cloris Leachman PG-13. 2.5 Stars.
RIGHTEOUS KILL Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are detective partners in New York City. A serial killer is on the loose and right from the beginning we’re led to believe it’s one of the cops. Through a plot technique we see the story somewhat in flashback but I could sense there was a twist coming and I was right. DeNiro and Pacino are great actors, but Righteous Kill isn’t much more than a good TV movie. Hopefully we’ll see these guys together in something better soon. Costarring Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino, Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson, John Leguizamo and Donnie Whalberg. Rated R. 3 Stars
TRAITOR Don Cheadle stars as Samir Horn, a former U.S. special ops agent who is now working with terrorists, selling explosives, and moving from country to country just as terrorist events take place. Guy Pierce plays an FBI agent hot on the trail of Samir-but he can’t quite catch him. The film has international intrigue, good guys and bad guys, and a very strong performance by Don Cheadle. But the story wanders a bit. Traitor is the kind of movie that you get caught up in while watching, but doesn’t stay with you. At least that’s how it was for me. 3.5 Stars
THE HOUSE BUNNY Anna Faris plays Shelley, a Playboy Bunny who gets evicted from the Playboy mansion. She’s unemployed and homeless when she takes the job of house mother for Zeta Alpha Zeta, a sorority of unpopular female geeks and nerds. Shelley takes control and before you know it Zeta is the most popular sorority on campus. In the end the girls learn it’s what on the inside that counts. Anna Faris is what Goldie Hawn was in her prime, but better, elevating the stereotype of the dumb blond to an art form. Costarring Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Katharine McPhee and Rumer Willis. Combination of Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House and Legally Blond. Cute, funny, sweet, Silly, and fun. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
HAMLET 2 Steve Coogan stars as a high school drama teacher who is trying to realize his dream of acting on stage through his students in class. When his plays get constantly panned by the school paper and his class goes from two students to 14, mostly from different ethnicities, and his wife leaves him, the teacher doesn’t really know what to do. Budget cuts hit the drama department and the class has one chance to prove their worth. So teacher and students put on “Hamlet 2”, written by the teacher after a night of dropping acid. The play features the Tuscon gay men’s chorus, a time machine, and a song called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. It’s non-stop wacky. Costarring Katherine Keener, David Arquette, Amy Poehler and Elisabeth Shue. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
THE ROCKER Rainn Wilson plays Robert “Fish” Fishman, the drummer of an eighties metal band who got dumped by the band-thereby destroying any hope he had for fame and fortune. Twenty years later Fish’s nephew’s high school rock band, A.D.D., needs a drummer and Fish is ready to rock. The new member of the band propels the group onto the charts and makes his dream of rock & roll fame come true. Rainn Wilson is a million miles from Dwight, his character on “The Office”. He’s really out there! Better than I expected with strong performances by Emma Stone, Christina Applegate and Jeff Garlin. As a former musician,I had fun. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
HENRY POOLE IS HERE
Luke Wilson plays a depressed guy who buys a house on the street where he grew up. He’s depressed and angry and we don’t know why. Neighbors start coming to his yard to see an image that appears on his newly stuccoed wall because they think it’s a sign from God. He thinks it’s an invasion of privacy and he gets even more depressed and angry. Starts out as a dark comedy and falls flat. Co-starring George Lopez, Rhada Mitchell, Adriana Barraza and Cheryl Hines. Rated PG. 2.5 Stars
TROPIC THUNDER One of my favorite movies of the year. Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. play big time Hollywood stars in a movie about the Vietnam war. When the production goes bad and the studio is about to cut off the money, the director decides to shoot the movie more realistically, in the jungles of Southeast Asia. That’s when things go really bad as the pretend soldiers-with pretend guns and pretend ammo run into real-life bad guys with real guns and real ammo. I loved this movie! Lots of inside Hollywood jokes. But if you understand a little about the business of Hollywood and self-centered movie stars and movie-making you’re going to have lots of laughs. Also co-starring Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise. Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise turn in Oscar-worthy performances. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS From the guys who brought you 40-yr. old virgin, and “Superbad” comes “Pineapple Express” which-in the story-is a very rare strain of marijuana. Yes, this is a pot movie about a couple of stoners played by Seth Rogan and James Franco. Seth Rogan is Dale, a process server who smokes a lot of pot and James Franco is Saul, his dealer. When Dale witnesses a crooked cop murder a rival of the local drug lord, he thinks his own life might be in danger. And he’s right. Thanks to a joint he dropped at the scene of the murder, the drug lord, played by Gary Cole is able to find out who he is through his dealer. So now, Dale and Saul are running for their lives and smoking a lot of pot during rest breaks. It’s drug-induced comedy that morphs into over-the-top violence. A good amount of laughs and scene-stealing performances by James Franco. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
SWING VOTE Kevin Costner plays Bud Johnson, a slacker, single father who would rather drink and sleep it off, than work. His daughter Molly, played by Madeline Carroll, wants her dad to clean up his act and even encourages him to take some civic responsibility by voting in the presidential election. Bud misses the vote but Molly does something that sets off a chain of events where Bud Johnson’s single vote will decide who becomes the leader of the free world. Bud’s in the national spotlight getting more attention than anyone on the planet as the current President-played by Kelsey Grammer, and the challenging candidate, played by Dennis Hopper, do everything they can to get that winning vote. It’s funny in spots, too long in the middle, with some subtle election year messages. Madeline Carroll as Bud’s daughter is great. Also co-starring Paula Patton and Nathan Lane. PG-13 2.5 Stars.
STEP BROTHERS Dale, played by John C. Reilly is 40, he’s an unemployed loser and he lives with his dad Robert. Brennan, played by Will Ferrell is 39, he’s an unemployed loser and he lives with his mom Nancy. When Robert and Nancy get married Dale and Brennan become step brothers and roommates and they hate each other. That leads to a raunchy, moronic, silly story filled with slapstick and vulgarity, which is sometimes very funny. Dale and Brennan seem to have the brains of 12-yr olds. When mom and dad can’t take it anymore and split up, the boys hatch a plan to get them back together. Step Brothers makes “Dumb and Dumber” look smart and smarter. Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen star as the parents. Co-written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Directed by Adam McKay. Rated R. 2 Stars.
THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE Scully and Mulder are reunited in the second film based on the hugely successful TV series. If you didn’t watch the series you might not care about the movie. If you did watch the series, you may have seen better stuff than you will in this film. David Duchovny as Fox Mulder is in reclusive retirement from the bureau. Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully is a doctor trying to save a kid with a terminal disease. When an FBI agent goes missing the bureau calls on Scully and Mulder to help them determine if a psychic ex-priest with a history of pedophilia is part of the solution or part of the problem. Story progresses with more missing persons and body parts. It’s a who-dunnit which I saw as a ‘who cares?” PG-13 2 Stars.
THE DARK KNIGHT Christian Bale is back as The Batman, and the late Heath Ledger is his worst nightmare as “The Joker”. Gotham City is in deep trouble as The Joker and his henchmen create havoc. The Joker turns up the heat with his own brand of terrorism and promises to make it hotter unless Batman reveals his true identity. Very dark and dramatic, with great new Batman gadgets and outstanding performances by all, including Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman. At two-and-a-half hours it’s a bit long, but very good and could end up being the biggest movie of the summer. Rated PG-13. 4 Stars
MAMA MIA If you loved the play, or love Meryl Streep, or love Abba songs, or love musicals, or love romance or romantic comedies with music and dancing, you are likely to love “Mama Mia”. Based on the very successful play, this is the story about a young woman who invites three of her mother’s former lovers to her wedding, with the hope of meeting her real father. Set in Greece it’s great eye candy with tons of Abba songs, lots of dancing and a hefty dose of schmaltzy romance. Streep again proves she is one of the best actors in the world. If you’re attracted to this film you will have great fun and be totally entertained. Stay for the credits and be warned; you’ll have Abba songs stuck in your brain for the next two days! Costarring Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried. PG-13. 4 Stars
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH Brendan Fraser plays a science professor with some unconventional ideas, including those of Jules Verne, that there might be a world in the center of our world. On a trip to Iceland with his nephew the professor make a discovery that leads to a thrilling journey to a never-before-seen world. In 3-D, it’s a totally entertaining adventure for the whole family. PG 3.5 Stars
MEET DAVE Eddie Murphy stars as an alien space ship–and the miniature captain of that spaceship, in this family-friendly sci-fi comedy adventure. The ship, from the planet “Nil” is the size and shape of a normal earthling and looks like Eddie Murphy. It’s controlled by miniature people inside who come to earth after an intergalactic probe goes missing. It’s a creative and funny story about finding love in a most unusual way while deciding which planet to save. Silly, and I liked it. Costarring Elizabeth Banks and Gabrielle Union. PG 3.5 Stars.
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY An ancient curse that will unleash the most powerful army in history is about to destroy the world but not until Hellboy has a chance to stop it. Along with team in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development--pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe (Doug Jones) and protoplasmic mystic Johann--Hellboy travels between the surface and the inner world, where creatures of fantasy threaten human extinction. Hellboy, a creature of two worlds who's accepted by neither, has to make a choice between the life he knows and an unknown destiny that beckons him. Special effects, bizarre creatures, outrageous wardrobe. Visually dazzling but too much of everything for me to make it entertaining. 2.5 Stars.
HANCOCK Will Smith plays the grungiest, sloppiest, drunkest super hero ever. Will Smith plays Hancock, a drunk, dirty, clumsy, reckless and powerful superhero who saves lives and destroys bad guys in L.A., but damages property and upsets citizens in the process. The people don't appreciate, and don't like, Hancock. He's rude. He's got an image problem and a big chip on his shoulder. Ray, played by Jason Bateman is a Public relations pro who thinks he can help Hancock become a superhero that Angelinos will love and appreciate, but Hancock's going to have to change his ways, and that starts with him going to jail. Meanwhile, somebody from Hancock's mysterious past is in the picture and that could lead to Hancock losing all of his powers and maybe his life. Funny, and touching with lots of destruction, special effects and strong performances by Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. PG-13 3.5 Stars
WANTED Angelina Jolie is “Fox” a member of a 1000 year-old fraternity of assassins who terminate people on orders from fate. Fox rescues Wes, played by James McAvoy, from his boring cubicle day job and recruits him into the fraternity to avenge his father’s death. But Wes discovers there is more to this killing fraternity than meets the eye. Action galore in this shoot-em-up based on the graphic novels by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Co-starring Morgan Freeman. Great special effects and visuals including lots of slo-motion bullets. Rated R. 4 Stars.
WALL*e When earth became filled with garbage and trash humankind evacuated but left one lone robot who just kept on trying to clean up the mess. 700 years later that robot, a ‘waste allocation load lifter-earth class’ or “WALL-E” is still doing his job. That’s when he meets a search robot sent from the mother ship to check on planet Earth. WALL-E chases the search robot, named EVE back into space and a wonderful love story unfolds. From Pixar, who brought us Toy Story and Finding Nemo. WALL-E is fantastic and a treat for adults as well as kids. Rated G. 4.5 Stars.
Opening 6.20.08 GET SMART Starring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, this movie is based on the hit TV comedy series of the 1960’s which starred Don Adams. In the big-screen revival Maxwell Smart wants to be an agent in the field for Control but he’s too valuable on the inside to be working on the outside. But when things change and Smart is the only one who KAOS doesn’t know, he’s given the assignment. He’s working with agent 99, played by Anne Hathaway. Along for the fun is Agent 23, played by Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as The Rock. Alan Arkin does a good job as the chief. Carell’s Smart is not as bumbling as Don Adams. He’s a bit “smarter”. Overall Get Smart is a good assortment of laughs and fun. PG-13 3 Stars
THE LOVE GURU Mike Myers plays Guru Pitka who wants nothing more than to be better than his childhood rival Depok Chopra and have a guest appearance on the Oprah show. When the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, played by Jessica Alba asks Pitka to help her star player get back in the game after a romantic breakup, he takes on the job thinking this might help him get on Oprah. Costarring Justin Timberlake, Stepen Colbert, Verne Troyer and Ben Kingsley, The Love Guru is more like an extended version of a Saturday Night Live skit with lots of sight gags, cheesy jokes, midget humor and sexual innuendo. PG-13 2.5 Stars
MONGOL A huge epic with a cast of thousands. Mongol covers the life and legnend of Genghis Khan. The film is based on historic accounts from the 12th century. Outstanding, and worthy of an Oscar. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
Opening 6.13.08 THE PROMOTION John C. Reilly, who was nominated for an Oscar in “Chicago”, and Seann William Scott, who got lots of laughs in “American Pie” play two guys vying for the same supermarket manager job. Seann William Scott, as Doug, is sure he has the job until Richard, a new guy from Canada, shows up. It’s a low-budget film that wants to be a quirky comedy with more pathos than comedy. Problem is, we don’t know who to root for and unfortunately I didn’t much care who got the job. Supermarket employees might be able to relate, but wait for the video. Written and directed by the guy who wrote “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Costarring Fred Armisen, Lili Taylor and Jenn Fischer. Rated R. 85 Mins. 2 Stars.
THE HAPPENING M. Night Shyamalan is the guy who wrote and directed “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”, “Signs” and “The Village”. He lost me as a fan after Unbreakable and he should lose his filmmaking license after “The Happening”. Mark Walhberg stars as Elliott, a science teacher in Philadelphia. When a mysterious force hits New York, causing people to kill themselves, Mark and his wife, played by Zooey Deschanel join the masses evacuating the populated cities of the Northeast to avoid the unknown threat. They run and hide in a story that I found boring and not interesting. The Happening didn’t happen for me. Run and hide from this one. Rated R. 1 Star. Opening 6.6.08 YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN You don’t mess with the Zohan and you don’t mess with a winning formula if you’re Adam Sandler. Once again Adam has created a film his fans will have fun with. They like watching Adam Sandler having fun and he certainly does in “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” Adam plays Zohan, an Israeli commando. He’s a killing machine who fakes his own death to come to New York and realize his dream of becoming a hair stylist. Funnier than I expected and featuring appearances by John Tuturro, Mariah Carey, Rob Schneider, Lanie Kazan and many more, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” pokes fun at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the stereotypes we’ve all come to accept. A little too long, but worth the price of a ticket, especially if you’re an Adam Sandler fan. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
KUNG FU PANDA "Kung Fu Panda" features the voice of Jack Black as Po the Panda. He’s a daydreaming waiter in a noodle restaurant and a kung fu fanatic. But a chunky panda is not exactly suited for kung fu fighting. Still, Po dreams of kung fu and suddenly-by being in the right place at the right time Po is chosen as the new Dragon Warrior, destined to learn the secret of the dragon scroll and ultimately battle Tai Lung. Tai Lung is such a powerful kung fu master he is able to escape a prison with 1,000 guards. Dreamworks animation with typical underdog plot aimed at young kids. Starring Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogan. 91 Mins. Rated PG 3.5 Stars.
THE FOOT FIST WAY The story of Mr. Simmons, a southern small-town bumpkin who runs a Tai Kwon Do school and thinks he’s much better than he is. When Simmons finds his wife is cheating on him, his life gets turned upside down and he makes a fool of himself while discovering what’s really important in his life. Very low budget film made by film-school graduates starring Danny R. McBride. Some think The Foot Fist Way is hilarious. I found it barely watchable. 85 Mins. Rated R. 2 Stars.
Opening 5.30.08 SEX AND THE CITY If you know Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda from Sex and the City on HBO, DVD or TBS, you’re going to love them on the big screen. If you’ve never met the four women, you’ll get a caught up on their stories with slick summaries during the first minutes of the film. In the two-hour twenty-five minute film, they’re older, perhaps a little wiser, and still facing some of the same challenges in their respective love lives while wearing great clothes. Joining Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis is Jennifer Hudson as Carrie’s much-needed assistant. The big question of course is, will Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) get married. The answer? Yes and no. Is the movie worth seeing? For fans it’s a must. For fans of fashion it’s a visual buffet. For non-fans, check the TV show first. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
Opening 5.22.08 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 19 years after the last Indian Jones film, Harrison Ford is back as Indy and as good as ever. The story takes place in 1957, 19 years after the last one and right in the middle of the cold war. The film starts with a group of Soviet soldiers infiltrating a U.S. nuclear test site to find a mysterious object. Professor Jones is in tow, against his will, but of course he escapes. Back at home, “Mutt”, played by Shia LaBeouf shows up and tells Indiana Jones of the Crystal Skull of Akator, an archeological mystery that may have psychic power. The search-and the chase-is on, as Indiana Jones with Mutt travel to a South American jungle with the Russians close behind, led by the evil Irina Spalko, played by Cate Blanchett. Indy is reunited with Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Great action, stunts and special effects make this fourth Indiana Jones totally entertaining and well worth the price of a ticket. Also co-starring Ray Winstone, John Hurt and Jim Broadbent. PG-13, 122 mins. 4 Stars.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN It’s long, filled with action, fantastic special effects, and very good. Based on the works of C.S. Lewis the followup to “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” has the characters are once again transported out of England and into the world of Narnia where more than 1300 years have passed and everything is different. An evil king presides and his nephew is in hiding to avoid being killed by the king. Like the first film, talking animals, and mystical events, but unlike the first, this movie has HUGE battle scenes with thousands of warriors as the Narnians fight the Telmarines and the evil king. Excellent! PG 4 Stars.
SON OF RAMBOW It was a hit at the film festivals, but this little movie from Britain didn’t work for me. It’s 1980’s England and two schoolboys, one a bully, the other from a family that forbids him to watch TV or movies, are making a home movie with a camcorder to enter a film-making competition. The bully makes the other do all the stunts, which provides some humor, but overall Son of Rambow, cute in spots, but ulitmately lost it’s way and was disappointing. 2 Stars.
SPEED RACER Based on the cartoon, Emile Hirsh plays Speed Racer the brother of the late Rex Racer of the famous Racer family involved in-of all things, car racing. Speed has been a race fan since he was a baby and now-as a young man, it’s his turn to take the wheel to the championship. Half animated, half live-action and ALL dazzle, there is no coherent story here, but an overload of special effects in a movie that is way too long. Costarring Christina Ricci, Susan Sarandon Matthew Fox and John Goodman. PG 1 Star
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS Romantic Comedy. Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz star as New York strangers who meet in Las Vegas. After a night of extreme partying and drinking they get married only o wake up sober and realize their mistake. On the way out of town, he plunks one of her quarters in a slot machine and wins $3 million. Each wants the money and a divorce, but the the judge won't rule on anything until they spend six months in marriage counseling and living together. Can you guess what happens? Co stars include Rob Corddry, Queen Latifah, Lake Bell and Dennis Farina.. PG-13 2 Stars
Opening May 2, 2008
MADE OF HONOR Patrick Dempsey plays Tom, a millionaire bachelor who’s with a different woman every night. His best friend of 10 years, Hannah, is played by Michelle Monaghan. They spend Sundays together and she knows all about his affairs while secretly being in love with Tom. When Hannah agrees to marry a guy in Scotland, she asks her best friend Tom to be her maid of honor. But wait, Tom now realizes he’s in love with her, and wants to derail the marriage but can’t seem to pull it off. Very predictable story line, good performances. Similar story line in “When Harry Met Sally”, “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, and “Run Fat Boy Run”. PG-13 2.5 Stars.
IRON MAN Billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) owns Stark Industries, the worlds largest weapons manufacturer. When Tony is taken hostage in a war zone he designs a suit of armor that helps him escape. Back in business he changes the course of war-oriented Stark Industries and in the process develops an advanced suit of armor that gives him superhuman strength and protection. Outstanding special effects in this excellent action adventure based on the Marvel Comics character. Co-starring Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. PG-13. 4 Stars
Opening April 18, 2008
THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM is a family-friendly fantasy-adventure action film starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li. When young Jason, played by Michael Angarano, discovers a legendary stick weapon in a Chinatown pawn shop, he falls into a time warp and finds himself ancient China where he must return a fighting stick to its rightful owner, the Monkey King. In their first film together Li and Chan play martial arts warriors who help Jason fulfill his mission. PG-13 3.5 Stars
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL When Peter gets dumped by his girlfriend, Sarah Marshall for another guy he feels like dying. His brother convinces him to go to Hawaii to clear his head and maybe even meet someone. Ends up Sarah is in Hawaii with her new boyfriend creating a most uncomfortable situation for them and lots of funny stuff for us. Waaaayy over the top in many places, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is very R Rated and very funny. Starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell from the people who brought us 40-Yr. Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Rated R 4 Stars
ZOMBIE STRIPPERS If you’re finding old fashioned zombie movies just a little too boring, Zombie Strippers might be for you. A plan by the Army goes awry when a laboratory grade Zombie inducing formula infects a solder. He, in turn, wanders into a strip club and before you know it, Zombie Strippers. Outrageous, with lots of blood and guts and naked zombies. Many laughs and much nudity. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
Opening April 11, 2008
SMART PEOPLE Dennis Quaid plays a depressed widower college professor whose loser adopted brother Chuck, played by Thomas Hayden Church comes to live with him and his daughter, played by Ellen Page. Three great actors in the same house, in the same movie, with a good script. No wonder they called it “Smart People”. But wait, there’s more. When the professor ends up in the hospital he meets an ER doctor, played by Sarah Jessica Parker and there may be some chemistry there, unless he screws it up-which he does, but maybe he can save it, if his daughter doesn’t sabotage it. All in all, “Smart People” is a smartly written, well delivered comedy with a good ending. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
STOP-LOSS Ryan Phillippe stars as an army seargeant who returns to Texas from Iraq with his war buddies expecting to be discharged. When he finds out he’s been ‘stop-lossed’ extending his service, and he’s being sent back to the war, everything changes in his relationship with his buddies, his family and his life. Great performances by all in a thought-provoking and powerful drama. Costarring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ciaran Hinds. Rated R. Four Stars.
RUN FAT BOY RUN A romantic comedy about Dennis, played by Simon Pegg, who walked out on his fiancé on their wedding day. He didn’t think he was good enough to marry Libby, played by Thandie Newton but now, five years later, he’s still in love with her. Thing is, she’s about to marry someone else. So to somehow prove he can actually follow through on a commitment and accomplish something, and maybe win her affection, this overweight and out-of-shape loser trys to run the London marathon. Funny in spots and probably a good date movie. Costarring Hank Azaria. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
21 Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth and Laurence Fishburne star in 21, based on a true-life story of brainy college students who took Vegas casinos for millions by counting cards while playing blackjack. It’s fun to watch the way the team works the blackjack table to win big but eventually the close-ups and casino footage gets a bit tedious. But overall, “21” deals a winning hand and made me want to try counting cards to beat the house. I’m probably not alone. Good performances but a little too long. PG-13. 3 Stars
FLAWLESS Demi Moore plays an executive working for a big diamond company in London and Michael Caine plays a janitor working for the same company. They each want to exact revenge on the company so they join forces and hatch a plan to steal a couple of pounds of diamonds. The plan changes and one of the two grabs all the loot, leaving the other to the cops. But wait, there’s a twist. Beautifully photographed with strong performances. PG-13. 3 Stars
DRILLBIT TAYLOR Three geeky high school freshmen are being picked on by bullies so they decide to hire a bodyguard. The job goes to a homeless loser by the name of Drillbit Taylor, played by Owen Wilson. Drillbit is only in it for the money as he infiltrates the school faculty posing as a teacher so he can keep an eye on the teens who hired him. This film poses as a comedy but I found it a weak story that is too predictable, too long, and not very funny. PG-13 1 Star.
NEVER BACK DOWN “The Karate Kid” meets “Fight Club” in this one. Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is the new kid in town and, thanks to YouTube,it’s not long before everyone at his Orlando high school discovers he’s good with his fists. Jake gets pulled into a fight with the local bully and he gets beat up and humiliated. Then Jake-who looks like Tom Cruise-meets Jean Roqua, played by Djimon Hounsou. Jean is a master at mixed martial arts and he agrees to train Jake, but only if Jake can find the patience and discipline it will take to succeed. It took a a lot of patience and discipline for me to sit through this one. Lots of fighting, lots of actors in their mid 20’s playing high school kids. PG-13. 1 Star.
COLLEGE ROAD TRIP Martin Lawrence appears in his first G-rated film playing a father who’s not ready to let his daughter Melanie, played by Raven Symone, go away to college. Dad wanted her to go to Northwestern, close to their home. But SHE wants to go to Georgetown, about 700 miles further away and she’s planning to check out colleges with her girlfriends. But daddy insists he and Melanie go on that road trip to check out Georgetown, and on the way a whole lot of slapstick and corny stuff happens. Donny Osmond co-stars, along with a chess-playing pet pig and other clichéd characters. College Road Trip is a Disney family film and I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. The audience liked it, so that could bode well for the film. Raven Symone is also one of the producers on the movie. Rated G. 2 Stars.
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY Francis McDormand plays Guinivere Pettigrew, a down-on-her luck, unemployed governess in 1939 London. Pettigrew fakes her way into a job as the social secretary of a young wealthy starlet-played by Amy Adams, and spends a whirlwind 24 hours which changes the lives of all the characters and her own life too. Snappy dialogue, great costumes, and somewhat reminiscent of Gosford Park. Adapted from a novel, but Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day looks like it came from the stage. I liked it. Rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars
VANTAGE POINT When the President of the United States is shot while giving a speech in Spain, secret service agent Dennis Quaid tries to put together pieces of the assassination puzzle. For you and I, in the theater the scene is played and re-played, and re-played six or eight times from different ‘vantage points’, and every time we get a different look, and we also get bored from seeing the same scene too many times. Lots of action and a way over-the-top chase scene fill out the 90-minutes. PG-13. 2.5 Stars
THE SIGNAL A mysterious electronic transmission has jammed all communication and sent a signal out over radios and televisions. This signal is turning everyone who hears it into a vicious killer. So everyone is out to kill everyone else, except for a a few people, but it’s hard to tell who the good people are. It’s a horror film that morphs into a comedy. Very low budget and, if you can stand the gore, very entertaining. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
JUMPER Hayden Christensen plays David, a guy who can instantly transport himself anywhere he wants through teleportation. When David discovered his teleportation ability as a teenager, the first thing he did was rob a bank by transporting himself directly into the bank’s vault. With lots of cash, he’s jumping all over the world and having a great time, until he discovers there are other “jumpers” and people who want them dead. The movie-and its special effects, quickly morph into an absurd comic book plot filled with holes big enough to jump a truck through. Costarring Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson and Samuel L. Jackson. PG-13. 1 Star.
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES Based on the books, this is a fantasy adventure about a family that moves from New York, into a secluded old house that once belonged to their great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. It’s not long before strange things begin happening in the house. At first the family blames Jared, played by Freddie Highmore, but soon everyone discovers the house and surrounding woods are inhabited by creatures who mean them harm. It’s very well done and totally entertaining. PG-4 Stars
HONEYDRIPPER Danny Glover plays the owner of The Honeydripper lounge in 1950 rural Alabama. He’s about to lose his business when he comes up with an idea that might just turn things around. Billed as a fable about the birth of rock & roll, this story unfolds so slowly it makes dripping honey look like a waterfall. Slow and deliberate with solid performances, but by the time we get to the music I just didn’t care any more. 2 hours. Rated PG-13 2 Stars.
UNTRACEABLE The story of a maniac who is killing people and showing it live on the internet.The more people who watch, the faster the victim dies.The killer, exploiting our voyeurism, is a computer expert and nobody can find him, he’s ‘untraceable’. Diane Lane plays an FBI agent on the case, as does Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks’ son and Billy Burke is a local detective.It’s dramatic, gruesome and sometimes over the top.Rated R.2 Stars
27 DRESSES Stars Katherine Heigl as Jane. She’s idealistic, selfless a hopeless romantic and always a bridesmaid, but never a bride. In fact she’s been a bridesmaid 27 times. Jane is in love with her boss but as soon as the boss, played by Edward Burns meets Jane’s sister (Malin Akerman) he falls for her. That’s when Jane meets James Marsden who writes for the bridal section of the newspaper, but Jane doesn’t know it. Good performances and some predictability, but I liked it and found it pleasantly entertaining. PG 3 Stars
MAD MONEY Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes, (Mrs. Tom Cruise) are working at the Federal reserve bank in Kansas City when Diane Keaton’s character comes up with the brilliant idea to rob the bank of money they will never miss. She hatches a plot to steal worn-out money that is scheduled to be shredded, BEFORE it is shredded. Nobody will ever miss it. Predictable and not too good, but the broad range of ages is an attempt to appeal to every age woman out there, and it just might do that. Mad Money is rated PG-13 2 Stars
CASSANDRA’S DREAM This drama from Woody Allen stars Ewan McGregor (THE ISLAND) and Colin Farrell. They’re brothers, living in London and they both could use some help financially. An opportunity comes along that could get them some cash but it involves killing someone they don’t even know. It’s a plan that has consequences worse than they could imagine. Good script with solid performances and a very good film. I liked it a lot. PG-13 4 Stars
THERE WILL BE BLOOD Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a fantastic performance as Daniel Plainview, a solo prospector in the late 1800s who discovers oil and goes on to become a powerful tycoon. Loosley based on the Upton Sinclair novel called “Oil” and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson “There Will Be Blood” gets my vote for best picture and best actor. Daniel Day-Lewis creates a larger-than-life character who is ruthless to his competition, yet attentive to his adopted son. Paul Dano co-stars as a young preacher whose goals are in direct conflict with the oil baron’s and each would like to see the other dead. Two-and-a-half hours of outstanding cinematography and acting. Rated R. 5 Stars.
THE BUCKET LIST Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play a millionaire and a mechanic who meet in the hospital after each is diagnosed with a serious, perhaps life-threatening condition. The men are very different but they find common ground as Morgan Freeman lists the things he wants to do before he “kicks the bucket”– his bucket list. They leave the hospital and travel the world, checking off the items on the list and providing a rather predictable story. Good performances and pretty weak script. It’s a geezer comedy. PG-13. 2.5 Stars
THE ORPHANAGE A psychological thriller about a family that moves into an old house that was once an orphanage. The house is now haunted by the ghosts of children who once lived there. Film is in Español, with subtitles. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
WALK HARD, THE DEWEY COX STORY This is a hysterical spoof of films like “Walk the Line”, “The Buddy Holly Story” and “Ray”. John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox as we follow his long journey from his country upbringing to his success as a music superstar. This is one of the funniest movie’s I have seen in years. I loved it. Costars include Chris Parnell and Tim Meadows from Saturday Night live, and Jenna Fischer from The Office. For me it is VERY funny stuff. Rated R. 4.5 Stars.
SWEENEY TODD Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were a winning combination in “Edward Scissorhands” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and they’ve done it again. From the stage play, Sweeney Todd tells the story of a man unjustly sent to prison and out for revenge when he is released. Johnny Depp plays the title character, the demon barber of Fleet Street who has a fatal way of offering his customers a close shave. Strong performances and outstanding musical performances too in this Broadway musical now on the big screen. Very bloody in a very Tim Burton way. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR Based on a best selling book “Charlie Wilson's War” is the true story of how a playboy congressman, a renegade CIA agent and a beautiful Houston socialite joined forces to lead the largest and most successful covert operation in history. Their efforts contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The consequences are still being felt today. Tom Hanks stars as bachelor playboy congressman Charlie Wilson. Phllip Seymour Hoffman plays a CIA agent with a mind of his own, and Julia Robert a wealthy Texas socialite. Very strong performances by all in this revealing story. Rated R. 4 Stars.
THE KITE RUNNER This is the emotional story of two young Afghani friends whose lives go in very different directions as Afghanistan goes from monarchy to invasion and rule by the Taliban. Subtitled. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
THE GREAT DEBATERS Denzel Washington directs and stars in this uplifting drama based on a true story about a small East Texas all-black college in 1935 that rises to the top of the nation's debate teams in a duel against Harvard. Costarring Forest Whitaker PG-13 3.5 Stars
I AM LEGEND Will Smith is Robert Neville, the last surviving human being on the planet after a world-wide plague has killed everybody else. It’s Neville and his dog, in ghost-town Manhattan, trying to survive and conduct experiments on ghoulish mutants that were rendered mindless and violent cannibals by the virus. Like Tom Hanks in “Castaway”, Smith is alone here as we learn how it happened in flashback and dream sequences. Totally engrossing and well worth the price of a ticket. PG-13. 4 Stars.
JUNO When 16-year old Juno, played by Ellen Page, becomes pregnant she decides to give the baby up for adoption. Jennifer Garner plays the adoptive mom but all is not well in her home. That, and the teenage romance between Juno and the baby’s father, played by Michael Cera, makes for a quirky, funny and sweet comedy. Snappy lines, good performances and a good ending. PG-13 3.5 Stars
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING Nicole Kidman plays Margot who visits her somewhat estranged sister to attend her wedding. Margot is neurotic and nuts and so is everybody else in this story about a dysfunctional relationships in a dysfunctional family filled with neurotics and self involvement. There isn’t one likeable character in the movie. Co-starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black and John Turturro. It was painful for me to watch all this angst and misery on screen. If you want to feel good about your own family, see Margot at the Wedding. Rated R. 2.5 Stars. THE GOLDEN COMPASS Nicole Kidman has two movies opening the same weekend. The Golden Compass is based upon the books and tells the story of young Lyra, who sets out to save kids who have been taken from their families to a laboratory in the north. Lyra holds a magical compass that reveals the truth. Kidman plays a wicked woman and Lyra is played very well by Dakota Blue Richards. Co-starring Daniel Craig and Sam Elliott. Controversy surrounds this film, based on the anti-religious theme of the books. That theme doesn’t appear here, but the film is dark and may not be appropriate for young children. I found the blend of computer-generated sets and animals with strong visuals quite entertaining. The story ends pointing directly to a sequel. PG-13 3 Stars.
ATONEMENT Adapted from the novel, Atonement is a love story in 1930’s and 40’s England. Keira Knightly plays Cecilia whose love for Robbie, played by James McAvoy is the stuff fairy tales are made of. Unfortunately, Cecilia’s sister accuses Robbie of a crime he didn’t commit and the two lovers are separated by time, space and the war. Visually the film is stunning. Excellent performances and filled with emotion. Rated R. 4 Stars
STEPHEN KING'S THE MIST Based on a Stephen King novella, ‘Stephen King’s The Mist’ tells the story of a group of people in a small town in Maine, trapped in a supermarket as a mysterious force arrives, cloaked in a mysterious mist. There are monsters, giant bugs, ravaging tentacles and thrills galore. A little too long, but filled with tension and creepy, gory scenes “The Mist” will have you squirming in your seat. Rated R 3.5 Stars
AUGUST RUSH Freddie Highmore plays Evan Taylor, an 11-yr. old orphan who wants more than anything to find the parents who put him up for adoption immediately after he was born. Evan hears sounds, the sounds of the world and feels those sounds-and the sounds he can make, might connect with his parents. He escapes from the orphanage and becomes a musical performer in Manhattan and that leads to a most predictable reuinion. Costarring Robin Williams, Keri Russel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Terrence Howard. PG 2.5 Stars
I’M NOT THERE Six actors portray Bob Dylan, or a Dylan-like performer, in different stages of his career. Players include Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale. I found this movie disjointed and not compelling. Good music, good performances, but basically just a lot of vignettes with no continuity. Rated R. 2 Stars
ENCHANTED When a animated cartoon princess gets jettisoned from the pretend world to the real world of modern day Manhattan it’s up to her cartoon prince to follow and try to save her. Problem is, in the real world she may have fallen for a real person. Patrick Dempsey, Amy Adams, Susan Sarandon and James Marsden star in a totally delightful fantasy musical which I found totally enchanting. It’s fun and funny with a fairy tale ending. PG. 4 Stars
MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM Dustin Hoffman plays Mr. Magorium who has been in the toy business for a couple of hundred years. His assistant, played by Natalie Portman, is a pianist whose musical career is on pause as she helps out in the toy store known as Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. When Magorium decides to quit the business there are some decisions to be made. Two hours after I saw it, I couldn’t remember what the story really was. G Rated and filled with toys, this film will perhaps dazzle kids from three to seven but beyond that it’s just eye candy. Co-starring Jason Bateman and Zach Mills. Rated G. 1 Star.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN It’s 1980 and Lewellyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin, stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad in the Texas desert. He finds two million dollars in cash and decides to keep it. But a psychopathic killer, played by Javier Bardem, connected to the drug dealers wants the money and is after Moss to get it. Tommy Lee Jones plays the small town sheriff on the verge of retirement when he gets pulled into the most gory killing spree he could ever imagine. Extremely violent and very good. Directed by the Coen brothers. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
BEOWULF A most stunning 3-D version of the classic poem featuring the voices and likenesses of Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn, Brendan Gleeson, Angelina Jolie Crispin Glover and Alison Lohman. Using motion capture technology, director Robert Zemeckis tells the story of the warrior Beofulf defeating the demon Grendel, and much more. PG-13, 4.5 Stars
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD Phillip Seymour Hoffman is Andy and Ethan Hawke is Hank, they’re brothers, each with their own money problems and relationship problems. Andy, the older of the two suggests they pull a robbery to solve all their problems. The plan unravels which leads to a series of horrible events that nobody saw coming. An excellent, violent, crime thriller with great performances. Marisa Tomei plays Andy’s wife with Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris as the brothers’ parents. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Rated R. 4 Stars
FRED CLAUS Vince Vaughn plays Fred Claus, the unsuccessful brother of Nicholas Claus, who we all know as St. Nick, Santa Claus, played by Paul Giamatti. When Fred is down on his luck he calls Nick for a loan and Nick encourages Fred to come to the North Pole to help the elves make toys and earn the money he needs. Fred makes the trip and shakes up everything in Santa’s world. Bad script, weak story lines but good performances by all, including Kevin Spacey who plays an accountant type who is out to shut down Santa’s operation. PG 1 Star.
LIONS FOR LAMBS Robert Redford directs and co-stars with Tom Cruise as a senator, Meryl Streep as a reporter and Derek Luke and Michael Pena as two college guys who go off to war. Redford makes strong political statements on both sides of very sensitive issues as his characters do the same. The film is thought-provoking as it encourages us to get more involved in things that matter, from education to the war. Throughout the film we move between the professor’s office, the battlefield and the senator’s office. Preachy at times but in a good way. I liked it a lot. Rated R. 4 Stars.
SHARKWATER A revealing documentary about how sharks have been demonized as we are led to believe they’re a danger to humans. The filmmaker shows us that sharks are not interested in eating humans, but because humans are interested in eating shark fins, sharks are now being slaughtered at the rate of 10,000 per hour. Nobody seems to care but this loss could create an ecological disaster. PG 4 Stars
BEE MOVIE In this animated film, Jerry Seinfeld lends his voice to Barry B. Benson, a honeybee who ventures out of the hive to discover that people harvest, sell, and eat the honey that bees work so hard to make. Barry falls for Vanessa Bloom, a florist voiced by Renee Zelweger, and they join forces to stop the exploitation of the bees. But that creates a problem nobody saw coming. Cute, with of Seinfeld-type humor, and famous voices including Oprah, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sting and more. PG 3.5 Stars.
AMERICAN GANGSTER Based on a true story, Denzel Washington plays Harlem gangster Frank Lucas and Russell Crow plays police detective Richie Roberts who is out to stop the man who is becoming the most powerful crime figure in New York. A little too long, but compelling and violent with strong performances by all. Likely to get Oscar attention. Rated R 4 Stars.
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL Ryan Gosling stars as Lars, an ultra shy guy in a very small town who falls in love with a most unusual girl.. She's a wheelchair-bound Brazilian-Danish missionary on sabbatical to experience the world. And she's also a custom-made, life-size plastic doll ordered from the Internet. Need I say more? Quirky comedy that is also very sweet. Totally entertaining. Co-stars Partricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer PG-13 4 Stars.
SLEUTH Jude Law and Michael Caine face off in this remake of the 1972 movie of the same name, based on the play of the same name. The younger man, played by Jude Law comes to the home of the older to tell him he is stealing his wife. The two men engage in a battle of wits and more, and only one can win. Rated R. 3 Stars.
GONE BABY GONE Casey Affleck plays a small time private investigator who lives with his girlfriend Boston’s working-class Dorchester neighborhood. When a 4-yr. old girl disappears, the child’s aunt hires Casey and his partner to solve the mystery, which the cops haven’t been able to do. The cops include Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and John Ashton. They don’t want the small time detective messing around with their case, but he ends up finding more than anybody wanted uncovered. Well done, strong performances, good drama. Well directed by Ben Affleck. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
MICHAEL CLAYTON George Clooney plays a “fixer” at a giant New York law firm defending a multi-national corporation in a huge class action lawsuit. When a lead attorney at the firm, played by Tom Wilkenson, goes bonkers and switches sides, the fixer is faced with the biggest decision of his career and his life. Great story, powerful performances, Oscar quality stuff. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
WE OWN THE NIGHT Robert Duvall plays the deputy chief of police in 1988 New York. His two sons are very different. Joseph, played by Mark Whalberg, is a cop who want to follow in his father’s footsteps. Bobby, played by Joaquin Phoenix, manages the most popular club in the city where Russian drug dealers and gangster operate. Bobby has to decide if his loyalty is to his family or big money. Rated R 3.5 Stars.
ELIZABETH THE GOLDEN AGE Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush are back with lots of darkness and extreme close-ups as the Spanish Armada attacks 16th century England and attempts to defeat Elizabeth. Clive Owen plays Sir Walter Raleigh who Elizabeth fancies but alas, it just doesn’t work out. And either did this movie for me. PG-13. 2.5 Stars
THE DARJEELING LIMITED Three brothers, played by Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrian Brody go on a life-changing trip to India. Directed by Wes Anderson, this is a quirky and sometimes very funny journey. Rated R. 3 Stars.
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD Brad Pitt plays notorious outlaw Jesse James, who in 1881 is planning his next big job while Robert Ford, one of his admirers-played by Casey Affleck is planning his death. Slow moving, moody and slow talking, but the performances are solid. Rated R. 3.5 Stars.
THE HEARTBREAK KID This remake of the 1972 film stars Ben Stiller as Eddie Cantrow who is unlucky in love. He finally meets someone he wants to marry and when he does, Eddie discovers she is a nightmare and on their honeymoon he falls for another woman. The Heartbreak Kid is directed by the Farrelly brothers who gave us Something about Mary and Shallow Hal. Costars include Ben's father, Jerry Stiller, Rob Corddry, Michelle Monaghan and Carlos Mencia. It's funny, and worth the price of a ticket if you like R-rated romantic comedies, and if you like Ben Stiller-who does a great job of playing a guy who really loses at love. Stay for the credits and some surprises. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
INTO THE WILD Great film based on a true story and the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer. the script was written by Sean Penn, ;who also directs the film. Christopher McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch graduates college in 1992 as a top student after which he gives away his money and possessions, disconnects from his family and disappears on a road trip that leads to Alaska and his goal to live in the wilderness. The film takes us on the journey introducing us to all the characters Chris meets on the way. It also depicts, in a very real way, the lonliness and desperation the young adventurer experienced, isolated in the Alaskan wilderness. Rated R. 4 Stars.
TRADE The story is about a young Mexican guy who searches the U.S for his young sister who has been kidnapped to be sold into the sex trade. Starring Kevin Kline and some relative unknowns, “Trade” begins in earnest and quickly morphs into a corny and cheesy caricature of itself. Rated R. 1.5 Stars.
THE KINGDOM When a suicide bomber takes out a lot of Americans on a base in Saudi Arabia, the FBI wants to go in but the State Department says ‘no’. That doesn’t stop rouge agents, headed up by Jamie Foxx from deciding to go it alone. What entails is an action packed story, set in the Middle East, and not likely to get the seal of approval from the Saudis. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
FEAST OF LOVE This film plays like a TV soap opera as we follow the romantic ups and downs of at least three couples while Morgan Freeman narrates and plays the part of the wise college professor. Greg Kinnear, Rhada Mitchell, Jane Alexander and Fred Ward all play strong parts in this ensemble cast in a film that I did not like but the audience did. Lots of nudity. Rated R. 2.5 Stars
GOOD LUCK CHUCK Dane Cook plays Charlie, a guy who has an unusual curse: Every woman he’s intimate with finds true love with the next guy, after Charlie. When women who want to get married find out about Charlie they all want to hook up with him. When Charlie meets the woman of his dreams, Cam–played by Jessica Alba, he’s smitten but he’s afraid if he gets too close, she’ll fall for the next guy and Charlie will lose her forever. Lots of skin, lots of raw dialogue, but not many laughs. Save your money. Rated R. 1 Star.
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield who goes on a search for his son, just back from Iraq and reported AWOL and missing by the army. There are mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance and when a body is found, Hank meets detective Emily Sanders, played by Charleze Theron and the investigation intensifies. In fact, everything in this drama that will likely get Oscar attention is pretty intense. Directed by Paul Haggis In the Valley of Elah is very well done. Rated R. 4 Stars.
3:10 TO YUMA In this remake of the 1957 western, Russell Crowe is Ben Wade a notorious gunman who is apprehended and on his way to Yuma prison. That is, if the authorities can find enough good men to escort the outlaw to the 3:10. One of those who volunteers is Dan Evans, played by Christian Bale. Good film with Ben Foster playing an especially evil sidekick of Ben Wade. Peter Fonda also co-stars in a small role as a bounty hunter. Rated R. 4 Stars
BALLS OF FURY A spoof of sports films with the sport being ping-pong. The only thing good about Balls of Fury is Christopher Walken who I like, no matter what he does. Otherwise, this one is worth missing. PG-13 1 Star
RESURRECTING THE CHAMP Erik, played by Josh Hartnett, is a struggling sports writer for the Denver Times. Erik’s boss, played by Alan Alda, thinks Erik’s writing is mediocre and promises no real future for him. But, when Erik discovers a homeless guy, who’s been used as a punching bag by some teenagers, is former boxing great Bob Satterfield he sees an opportunity to write a story. After hours of interviews with the homeless Satterfield-played by Samuel L. Jackson, Erik’s story, “Resurrecting the Champ” is on the cover of the Denver Times’ weekly magazine and Erik is the man of the hour. And just when you think this is another predictable Hollywood tale, there are some surprises that change everything. Hartnett is good, Jackson is excellent. Supporting actors include David Paymer, Kathryn Morris and Teri Hatcher. Strong performances all around but the movie is too slow and a bit long. Based on an L.A. Times magazine story. PG-13. 3 Stars.
SUPERBAD From the guys who brought us “40-Yr. Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” and in the spirit of “American Pie”, Super Bad is a raunchy, outrageous comedy with heart. When three geeky high-school friends about to graduate plan to buy booze for a party to impress some girls, things spin out of control and develop into one of the funniest movies of the year. Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse star, Bill Hader and Seth Rogen provide hysterical support. I saw it twice and loved it both times. Quite raunchy from the beginning, but ends up a sweet story of high school friendship. “Superbad” is super good. Rated R. 4 Stars.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL When the undertaker brings the wrong body to the funeral, you know you’re in for a funny movie. That’s the way “Death at a Funeral” begins, but the story doesn’t die there. It gets more outrageous and irreverent every step of the way. A great cast of British actors turn a solemn affair into one of dysfunctional, embarrassing situations that will have you laughing all the way through. Rated R. 4 Stars.
ROCKET SCIENCE A stuttering teenager meets the challenge of being different when he tries to navigate the twists and turns and peer pressure of his high school. When he joins the debate team he finds it’s more than he can handle alone and sets out for help. It’s s coming of age comedy which isn’t very funny and a bit too long. Rated R. 2 Stars.
RUSH HOUR 3 Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker join up again as two cops on the trail of the bad guys. The story begins with Tucker as James Carter directing traffic in downtown L.A. Jackie Chan as Inspector Lee is guarding a Chinese official in Los Angeles to address the world court on the subject of a Chinese crime syndicate. An assassination attempt puts Carter and Lee back together and they go to Paris to find those involved in the international crime ring. Great fight scenes, good action, a healthy dose of comedy and the Jackie Chan–Chris Tucker chemistry make this a very entertaining film. PG-13. 3 Stars
STARDUST This is a fairy tale, fantasy adventure with witches, flying pirate ships, a cross-dressing pirate captain, played by Robert De Niro, and a colorful cast of characters. Reminiscent of “The Princess Bride”, Stardust is the story of a Tristan, played by Charlie Cox who promises his beloved he will bring her a fallen star. When he finds the fallen star, played by Claire Danes, everything about his mission and his life changes. I loved this movie. It’s fun, funny, romantic and a little crazy. Co stars include Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, and Peter O’Toole. PG-13 4.5 Stars.
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM The movie begins, there are constant intense chases, incredible fights, spectacular car crashes along with some killing, and then it ends. And when it does end we know what happened to Jason Bourne-before the first film to make him what he is, and what Treadstone was and why a new plan, codenamed Blackbriar replaced it. And what is it with Jason Bourne? Like the two previous films, everybody wants him dead, they’re on his trail, chasing him around the world, watching him with sophisticated cameras, satellites, you name it. He knows they’re after him. He’s smart enough to go anywhere with fake passports and no money. Why isn’t he smart enough to wear a disguise? How about a mustache or a hat or a wig, or all three? I digress. In The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne again makes Superman look like a Sunday school teacher. He’s like the bionic man, invincible, able to leap out of windows, drive his car off a building and battle a half-dozen trained killers without getting a scratch. Amazing! Adrenaline flows freely and continuously in this non-stop, fast-paced thriller sure to delight Bourne fans again. PG-13 3.5 Stars.
HOT ROD Andy Samberg plays Rod Kimble a dopey guy who wants to be a stuntman so he tries to jump his little moped over the pool and performs other unsuccessful feats. Rod’s stepfather Frank picks on him and puts him down, and they engage in a weekly sparring session. When Frank needs a heart transplant Rod plans to jump 15 busses to raise money for the new heart, gain his respect, and then finally beat him in a fight. It’s silly, stupid, and not very funny. I liked it when it was called Napoleon Dynamite. At 83 minutes, it’s still too long. PG-13. 2 Stars
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE The movie starts with Homer Simpson looking at the audience and asking “why would you people pay to see something you can see on TV for free?” Lake Springfield is so polluted it’s killing the town so the townspeople put a stop to the pollution, but Homer Simpson drops a silo of waste from his pet pig into the lake and it’s the last straw. Springfield becomes toxic and the EPA puts a dome over the whole town. What happens next involves the Simpson family relocating to Alaska and then returning to Springfield to save the town. Funny, cute, and much bigger than a TV screen. Stay through the credits. PG-13. 3 Stars
TALK TO ME Based on the true story of Petey Greene, who went from convict to the most popular radio personality in Washington D.C. in the 1960’s and 70’s. Don Cheadle delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Petey, who many call the first radio ‘shock jock’. Chiwetel Ejiofor as station manager for WOL almost loses his job because he believes in the ex-con and it’s not long before Petey Greene is the talk of the town as he talks to the town. Rated R. 4 Stars.
NO RESERVATIONS Catherine Zeta Jones plays Kate, an accomplished chef whose personal life changes when her young niece, played by Abigail Breslin, comes to live with her. Her professional life changes when a new assistant chef played by Aaron Eckhart joins the kitchen staff at the restaurant. Kate, who is always in control, has to change the recipe to how she lives her life. Good food scenes. PG-13. 2.5 Stars
RESCUE DAWN Starring Christian Bale as Dieter Dengler, a captured pilot shot down over Laos in 1965 and Steve Zahn as Duane, a fellow prisoner. The men are being held with six or eight others in a jungle prison and even if they could escape, they would surely die in the jungle. But an escape plan is hatched anyway becaue Dieter would rather die trying to escape than die in prison. Rescue Dawn is a gripping escape film based on a true story with a real-life feel to I, done so well that might make you uncomfortable. It will certainly have you asking yourself what you might have done in that situation. PG-13. 4 Stars
HAIRSPRAY The first Hairspray movie hit theaters in 1988, then in 2002 the play-based on the film-hit Broadway and won a bunch of Tony awards. Now there’s another Hairspray movie. Is it based on the original film which was the basis for the play? Or is it based on the play, which was based on the original film? Answer? Yes, yes, and who cares? Hairspray is great. Story takes place in 1962 with newcomer Nikki Blonsky playing Tracy Turnblad and John Travolta playing her mom, Edna Turnblad. He is outstanding. Tracy wants, more than anything, to dance on the Corney Collins TV dance show, but she’s a little heavy and doesn’t stand a chance. You know the rest, and if you don’t you should, and you can do that by seeing Hairspray. Strong supporting performances by Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walkin, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney and a cast of hundreds. It’s an old school musical with outstanding choreography, songs, and sets and I found it totally entertaining. PG 4 Stars
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY Chuck and Larry are good friends and fellow firefighters in Brooklyn. Chuck, played by Adam Sandler is a very active bachelor with lots of women in his life. Larry, played by Kevin James is a widower with two kids and he’s just found out if he dies, his kids won’t get his pension because he’s not married. Because Larry doesn’t have a woman in his life he suggests that he and Chuck get married just for legal reasons to protect the pension. They’re not going to tell anyone, but the secret is soon out of the bag and these two straight men have to convince everyone they’re gay, or they could go to jail for fraud. They dance together, they sleep in the same bed, etcetera. But when Chuck ;has eyes for their lawyer, played by Jessica Beil, things get complicated. Its somewhat predictable and at times very funny. The full audience where I saw it liked “I now pronounce you chuck and Larry” a lot. Costars include Dan Aykroyd and Steve Buscemi. PG-13 3 Stars
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX This fifth Harry Potter film has a very dark beginning, dazzling special effects and strong performances by everyone. The story has the Dark Lord getting even closer to Harry hinting that the young wizard’s days might be numbered. And when a new administration clamps down on the freedom of the students at Hogwarts, and accuses Harry of lying, young Mr. Potter assembles his friends in secret to prepare for the upcoming confrontation with Lord Voldemort. “Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix” is an adequately entertaining film but probably not for those who haven’t read the books or seen the other films. Those who have read the books will no doubt love it. PG-13 4 Stars
YOU KILL ME Sir Ben Kingsley plays Frank, a hit-man in Buffalo. Frank has a drinking problem and he messes up a job so he’s sent to San Francisco to clean up his act and dry out. It’s there, while going to AA meetings and working part-time in a mortuary that he meets Tea Leone and a relationship ensues. It’s a quirky dark comedy with strong performances and I liked it a lot. Rated R. 4 Stars RATATOUILLE Put a young rat named Remy, who wants to be chef, in a restaurant where rats are never welcome, add animation from the people who gave us “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story”, pour in the writing and directing talents of Brad Bird, who gave us “The Incredibles” and you have a recipe for one of the best movies of 2007. Remy the rat finds himself in a former 5-star Paris restaurant which has lost two stars. He joins forces with a young trainee to do great things and bring the famous restaurant back. But when it’s revealed there is a rat, or two in the kitchen obvious problems arise. Fun, funny, totally entertaining and great for the whole family!!!! Rated G. 4.5 STARS
EVENING If you liked “The Hours” a few years ago, you’ll like “Evening”. I didn’t like “The Hours” , and didn’t like “Evening”. Clare Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette star in a story told mostly in flashback as the Vanessa Redgrave character drifts in and out of consciousness on her deathbead. She’s remembering her life and we’re watching. Mamie Gummer, the real life daughter of Meryl Streep plays the young Meryl. Very good performances in a very boring film. PG-13. 2 Stars
SICKO Michael Moore takes on the health insurance and health care system in the USA in Michael Moore style ,comparing what we have here to Canada, England, France and even the prison at Guantanamo Bay. In a country where more than 50 million people don’t have health insurance and infant mortality is among the highest of any modern nation this film is likely to get you fired up. PG-13, 3.5 Stars
EVAN ALMIGHTY The follow-up to “Bruce Almighty” stars Steve Carell as Evan Baxter, a TV anchorman turned congressman. When Evan, his wife and 3 boys move from Buffalo to Virginia, God, played by Morgan Freeman, appears and commands him to build an ark. Friends and family think Evan has lost his mind as he grows a beard and longer hair overnight. He even starts wearing a robe and looking like a Biblical Noah. Then the animals start arriving, two by two, hundreds of them. EVAN ALMIGHTY is silly and a little preachy, but I absolutely loved it and laughed out loud many times. It’s a great family film costarring Lauren Graham, John Goodman and the very funny Wanda Sykes. PG 3.5 Stars
NANCY DREW Based on the character from the books, Nancy Drew, played by Emma Roberts, and her dad, played by Tate Donovan go from River Heights to Los Angeles, because dad has some work there. He lets Nancy pick the L.A. rental house and she promises she won’t do any “sleuthing” while there. But wouldn’t you know it, the house Nancy picked has a mystery attached to it and if there’s anyone who loves a mystery it’s Nancy Drew. A neighbor kid “Corky’ becomes her pal and together they try to solve the mystery of the woman who once lived in the house before she died, or was murdered. PG. 2.5 Stars
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, known as the Fantastic Four are back in the latest sequel to show up at a theater near you. Reed and Sue are about to be married when something very bad starts happening all over the world. Reed doesn’t want to interrupt his marriage, but the future of the planet is at stake as huge craters are appearing all over the globe and a mysterious silver being, flying through the sky on a surfboard is the culprit. Soon it’s clear that earth is about to be destroyed and the Fantastic Four seem to be powerless to stop it. Former enemy, Dr. Doom shows up to help or maybe take over the ‘destroy the earth’ project. Explosions and special effects abound in a comic book resolution to a comic book story that is mostly eye candy. PG 2 Stars
Brad Pitt is Rusty Ryan, and George Clooney is Danny Ocean in Ocean's 13. When greedy casino owner Willy Bank, played by Al Pacino, cheats Reuben, played by Elliott Gould, out of his share of a new casino, Reuben almost dies. That's when Danny, Rusty, and the rest of the guys want revenge. They come together to pull a huge heist and break the bank, or in this case, Mr. Bank. They want to inflict serious payback for what he did to one of them. They even bring in the mark from the last film, Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia. There are all kinds of cool electronic tricks to steal the casino's money. And who doesn't want to win in Las Vegas? So we're rooting for the guys to steal the money from the bad guy. It's fun, and funny and quite entertaining. Co-stars include, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Carl Reiner and Ellen Barkin. Two hours long, Ocean's 13 is rated PG-13. 3.5 Stars
MR. BROOKS Kevin Costner plays Earl Brooks, a successful, respectable business man who’s married and has a daughter at college. Mr. Brooks is a serial killer on hiatus and shortly after the film starts, he gets back to his old murderous habits. His alter ego, played by William Hurt urges him to kill a lovemaking couple and everything goes as planned until a neighbor of the dead pair shows up at Mr. Brooks office with some incriminating photos. The neighbor is played by Dane Cook and he’s not a blackmailer, he wants to be the killer’s apprentice. Co-starring Demi Moore as the cop on the trail of the serial killer, Marg Helgenberger and Danielle Panabaker. Rated R. 3.5 Stars
KNOCKED UP When a stoner slacker has an alcohol-induced one night stand with a beautiful woman he doesn’t remember what happened and she doesn’t want to remember. But a couple of months later she’s pregnant and they both have some decisions to make. Katherine Heigl, from Grey’s Anatomy is the mother-to-be and Seth Rogen is the impregnator in this comedy. She’s georgeous, he’s a mess and can they make it work for the sake of the child, or is that a big mistake? It’s a Judd Apatow comedy that’s filled with big laughs, great lines and it’s well worth seeing. Costarring Paul Rudd. Rated R. 4 Stars.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley return for a third slice of swashbuckling action in The movie was shot back-to-back with the second entry into the series, DEAD MAN'S CHEST. It's definitely better than the last, but almost as confusing. You need a map or a flow chart to navigate the plot, the story lines, and all the characters. People who died in the last film are now alive, and the Caribbean mentioned in the title, doesn't much apply as they go to Singapore to rally all the pirates to fight the British, or stab Davie Jones in the heart, or help Will Turner get his daddy back. It's nuts I tell ya. the special effects are excellent, johnny Depp is his dependable self as Jack Sparrow. Almost 3 hours. Sit through the credits for a surprise. PG-13 3 Stars.
SHREK THE THIRD The third time’s the charm is not the case this time. Shrek the Third loses the charm of the first two Shrek films and replaces it with tired characters and a clichéd story. When the king of Far Far Away passes away Shrek is next in line for the throne, but he doesn’t want the job-he want to go home to the swamp. So he sets out to find Fiona’s cousin, Arther who might want to become King Arthur.. As Donkey, Puss n Boots and Shrek sets out on the journey, Shrek discovers Fiona is pregnant which places a lot of stress on the big green guy. Add Captain Hook, Cinderella, Snow White, The Headless Horseman, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Merlin and the seven dwarves and you’ve got a screen full of characters who ultimately reduce the Shrek charm to Shrek schlock.PG. 2.5 Stars
28 WEEKS LATER This is the sequel to 28 DAYS LATER, which I did not see so I had no idea what it was about.Britain has been evacuated as the “rage virus” has supposedly run its course.When it’s safe, a limited number of people are allowed to come back into the country, but they’re isolated in a small part of London.When the virus breaks out again, it’s chaos with lots of blood, violence and mayhem.This spin-off of the Zombie movie genre is likely to be enjoyed more by those who didn’t see the first film.For those who did, 28 WEEKS LATER, might be worth seeing “later” on DVD.Rated R. 3.5 Stars
THE EX What is supposed to be a romantic comedy looks to me like a romantic tragedy at the movies.Zach Braff and Amanda Peet play Tom and Sofia, a married couple with a newborn. When Tom loses his job in Manhattan they move to Ohio so he can take a job at the ad agency with Sophia’s father.Working at the same agency is Sophia’s high-school sweetheart, played by Jason Bateman a wheelchair bound over-achiever who wants to sabotage Tom and Sophia’s marriage as he climbs the ladder of success.Or in this case wheels his chair up the ramp of success.Good performances but bad scriptPG-13.1 Star.
WAITRESS Keri Russell plays Jenna, a waitress at Joe’s Diner who makes the best pies this side of heaven.She’s married to a real jerk, played by Jeremy Sisto, and when she gets pregnant Jenna couldn’t be less excited but she hangs in there with a pregnancy and a husband she doesn’t want.When the attraction between Jenna and her handsomeOB-GYN becomes too much to ignore she has some decisions to make.This is a low-budget, entertaining film with delightful characters in a real, small town, slice-of-life story with a good ending. Similar to Sideways with pie instead of wine.Cheryl Hines co-stars as does Andy Griffith with a terrific performance. I liked it a lot.Rated R. 4 Stars
SPIDER-MAN 3 This story has Spider-Man battling his friend Harry, the son of The Green Goblin who died in Spider-Man 2. A strange substance crawls out of a meteorite and that causes Spidey to go to the dark side for a while, showing his own villainous mean streak. And there’s Sandman, a monstrous bad guy made out of sand played by Thomas Haden Church. And there’s another villain to fight in the climax of the film, played by Topher Grace. Of course Mary Jane, played by Kirsten Dunst is as sweet as ever, although there are problems when Peter Parker wants to propose and make her Mrs. Spider-man. All in all, solid entertainment, and I liked it a lot. Toby Maguire is very good. Two hours and 15 mins. PG-13 4 Stars
LUCKY YOU Eric Bana plays Las Vegas gambler Huck Cheever plays poker for a living. He’s very good but he doesn’t know when to stop so ultimately he loses. (When drew Barrymore shows up this movie doesn’t know when to stop so we lose. Lucky You is only lucky if you don’t see it.) One night he was playing with the lovely Billie Offer played by Drew Barrymore sitting next to him, and he won, very nicely-later he went and lost it back. . Huck and Billy got romantic that night, afterward he stole some money from her and that was the end of that…at least for a while. Huck is a loser who “says” he wants to be a winner, but he keeps doing things that losers do. Lucky you if you don’t see this one. Co starring Robert Duvall and Jean Smart, and a lot of poker players and Robert Downey Jr. with a tiny cameo role. Too much time at the tables and no enough of a story. If you can’t get enough poker and poker faces on TV, try Lucky You-but you better be feeling real lucky, because after only a few hands, I folded. PG-13 2 Stars
NEXT Nicolas Cage stars as Chris Johnson, a small time Las Vegas performer with a magic act that features some psyhic tricks. But it's not really an act because Chris can actually see into the future. Two minutes into the future when it's something that affects him. A GOVERNMENT AGENT PLAYED BY JULIANNE MOORE wants his help to foil a terrorist nuclear attack, but remember, Chris' can only see two minutes into the future. But wait, there's more. Liz, played by Jessica Beil enables Chris to see wayyyyyy into the future, and now the FBI wants him even more, but so do the terrorists. Twists, turns, big holes in the plot, and overall a fairly entertaining film. But with all time travel and "seeing into the future" films, a lot of unanswered questions. In the film Nicolas Cage says, "Here’s the thing about the future, every time you look at it, it changes, and because you looked at it, that changes everything else. PG-13 3 Stars
YEAR OF THE DOG Molly Shannon plays Peggy. she's a secretary, single, and lives with her beagle named Pencil. When Pencil dies, everything changes for Peggy. She goes on a quest to rescue dogs from the animal shelters and becomes obsessed with saving them. Co-stars include John C. Reilly, Laura Dern, Regina King, and Peter Sarsgarrd. Year of the Dog is quirky, sometimes funny and sometimes sad. If you're a dog lover you'll find some good stuff in this one. But while the performances are all very strong, but I left the theater wanting more. PG-13 2 Stars
PERFECT STRANGER Murder, secrets and deception are at the heart of Perfect Stranger, starring Halle Berry, Bruce Willis and Giovanni Ribisi. When Halle’s childhood friend is murdered, she wants to find the killer and she sets out to infiltrate the ad agency owned by Bruce Willis-who was having an affair with the deceased woman. Her co-worker, played by Giovanni Ribisi has a mad crush on Halle, and he’s willing to help her take chances that might just get her killed too. It’s a sexy thriller, or it wants to be. But they lost me about 30-minutes in. Trying to be too slick, Perfect Stranger is far from perfect with twists and turns and an ending that-I must admit, did surprise me. Rated R. 2.5 Stars.
THE HOAX Richard Gere stars as real-life writer Clifford Irving who made history writing the authorized biography of billionaire Howard Hughes. Only problem was it was a hoax. Hughes never even met Irving. This is a fascinating story of real life events co-starring Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci. Rated R. 4 Stars
THE LOOKOUT Joseph Gorden Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, a brain damaged young guy who is trying to get his life back in order after causing an accident that killed two friends. He’s learning to use his brain again, while he works as a night janitor in a small town bank. Gary, played by Matthew Goode, befriends Chris and convinces him to help in a big bank heist as the lookout. It’s dramatic, compelling, engrossing and very good. Jeff Daniels and Isla Fisher co-star. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
MEET THE ROBINSONS Lewis is an orphan who wants to find his birth mother. But when he meets a kid named Wilbur Robinson who owns a time machine, everything changes. It’s time travel and great animation in a G-rated family film which can also be seen in 3-D. Rated G 3 Stars
BLADES OF GLORY Will Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels and Jon Heder plays Jimmy MacElroy. They’re rival figure skates who get into a huge brawling fight at the World Championships. Both skaters get stripped of their titles and barred from competition for life. Three years later a loophole allows the guys to get back to competition skating but they must do it as a pair, the first pair of male skaters to compete. Very funny with lots of sight gags. Rated PG-13, 3.5 Stars.
SHOOTER Mark Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger, an expert sniper who leaves the military after he loses his spotter in a mission goes bad. He is approached by the government to come back to serve his country and foil an assination attempt on the president. There is an assassination, and Swagger is the fall guy. He’s on the run and planning his revenge in the chase film that I really liked. A lot of plot points we’ve seen before, but it grabbed m. Rated R 4 Stars.
PRIDE Terrence Howard plays Jim Ellis, a college educated guy who can’t get a job in 1973 in Philadelphia. He’s asked to clean out a inner city park before the demolition team moves in. What he finds is a swimming pool and a nearby group of young men who need some direction and purpose. Jim was a competitive swimmer in school so he organizes the first African-America swim team in the city’s history. In the process we all learn about pride. It’s inspiring. Rated PG 3.5 Stars
REIGN OVER ME Adam Sandler takes a rare straight role as Charlie in REIGN OVER ME, which sees him playing a man who is living a life of denial and lost memories after his family was killed on 9-11. His former college roommate-now a dentist, played by Don Cheadle, realizes Charlie needs help to become a productive citizen once again and he wants to help. Weak script, not funny, wasted actors. Rated R. 2 stars.
I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE Funnyman Chris Rock is the co-writer, the director and the star in this story about Richard Cooper, a successful banking executive with a wife and two kids. In the introductory monologue we see that Richard is bored with unexciting love life with his wife. He stares at beautiful women and wonders what it would be like to be single again. Then, Nicki Tru, a woman from his bachelor days shows up at his office and Richard is faced with real-life temptation. Not a full blown comedy, but there are some good laughs. Rated R. 3 Stars.
300 Graphic novelist Frank Miller created the story that led to the screenplay for the movie 300 is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. The film tells the story of the ancient battle of thermopylay which took place in 480 B.C. 300 spartans led by king leonidas fought thousands of Persian army warriors, maybe as many as 200-thousand. Gerard Butler (Lara croft, dear Frankie and phantom of the opera) plays King Leonidas and his 300 warriors look like they all spent about 2 years in the gym before appearing in this movie. It’s embarrassing . There’s action, violence, blood galore. The film combines live action with computer generated graphics and fine special effects. Rated R. 3.5 Stars ZODIAC An all-star cast is featured in this featlure film account of the never-solved case of serial killings in the Bay Area. The movie spans some 25 years, and seems almost that long too. At more than 2.5 hours, it is at times both compelling and tiresome. Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Charles Fleischer, Dermot Mulroney, Chloe Sevigny all deliver outstanding performances in a movie that will likely appeal to CSI and Cold Case fans. I can’t recommend it to others, but Zodiac is well done. 4 Stars. Rated R.
WILD HOGS Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy play mid-life crisis friends who hit the road on their Harley’s to feel the wind in their faces and find adventure. These weekend warriors take time off from their real jobs to ride to the Pacific. On the way, when they run into a“real” biker gang, headed by Ray Liotta, their adventure turns dangerous-in a semi-funny way. Formula pratfalls, and slapstick scenes provide some laughs and overall, most audiences will like it. It’s silly fun with four guys who probably had a good time making the movie. Marisa Tomei and Jill Hennessey co-star. PG-13 3 stars.
THE ASTRONAUT FARMER Billy Bob Thornton stars as a farmer, whose name is Charlie Farmer. What are the odds of that happening? Farmer isn’t happy being a farmer. He has always wanted to be an astronaut, and almost had a chance many years ago. But those days are gone…or maybe not. With the help of his teenage son, Charlie builds a rocket and a space capsule in his barn and everybody in the world, except his family, thinks he’s crazy. PG 3 Stars
THE NUMBER 23 Jim Carrey takes on a most unusual role in THE NUMBER 23, playing a man who discovers a book that appears to be about his own life, and that causes him to become fixated on the number 23. A psychological thriller, For Carrey an Unusual role, unusual film. Weird actually, jumping back and forth between reality and dream sequences in a complete obsession with the number 23. Rated R. 3 Stars
MUSIC AND LYRICS Just in time for Valentines day, a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant, as Alex Fletcher, a has-been pop star from the 80’s and Drew Barrymore, as Sophie Fisher, a former literary student who now works for her sister’s weight-loss company. Alex is working county fairs and amusement parks, singing his songs for nostalgia fans, mostly women, who swoon over his hokey act from the past. The most popular singer of the present, CORA, grew up on Alex’s music and wants him to write the title song of her next CD. Problem is, Alex is a lousy lyricist and hasn’t written a song in 15 years or more. Enter Sophie Fisher, who has a way with words and after lots of begging she helps Alex creatively–and romantically. Costarring Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston. It’s cute and clever, and romantic and musical, and sprinkled with laughs. PG-13. 3.5 Stars
NORBIT Eddie Murphy, fresh from his Dreamgirls role, plays three characters in this one. Eddie is Norbit, a nerdy loser type who grew up in Mr. Wong’s orphanage and Chinese restaurant. Eddie also plays Mr. Wong. Norbit is forced into marrying Rasputia, played by Eddie. Rasputia is super-sized, mean and nasty. Norbit has a pretty bad life until Kate his childhood sweetheart from the orphanage shows up. Played by Thandie Newton, Kate is engaged to Cuba Gooding Jr., but we get the feeling early on that it’s not a good match and maybe there’s a chance for Norbit. Murphy is great as all three characters and the story-complete with lots of fat jokes, is similar to his Nutty Professor films and The Klumps. If you liked those, you’ll like this. PG-13. 2.5 Stars
BECAUSE I SAID SO Diane Keaton plays the divorced mother of three adult daughters who works in the catering business. The youngest daughter, played by Mandy Moore is unlucky in love and mom wants to change that so she goes to the internet, the best place to find anything, including the right man, and finds a guy who she thinks is perfect. But wait, another guy thinks he’s the right one, and Mandy is dating both, unaware that mom set it up. When she finds out, everything changes. Co-stars Piper Parabo, Lauren Graham, Tom Everett Scott, and Gabriel Macht. A romantic comedy that makes all other chick flicks look like Rambo. PG-13 2.5 Stars
CATCH AND RELEASE Jennifer Garner plays a woman whose fiancé dies just days before their wedding day. She’s grieving, but her fiancés friends are there to support her and to hide his secrets. What evolves is a love affair with one of those friends and new discoveries about the man who died. But for me, this film died about 10 minutes after it started. It’s awful. Co-stars include Kevin Smith, Timothy Olyphant and Sam Jaeger. PG-13. 1 Star.
SMOKIN ACES When the word gets out that a mob boss is offering one million dollars to eliminate a Vegas magician hiding out in Lake Tahoe, every hit man and hit-man wannabe comes running But wait, the FBI wants the magician alive, so they’re trying to get there first. The cast includes Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, Taraji Henson and, making their motion picture debuts, Alicia Keys and Common. If you like too much violence mixed in with your short supply of comedy this film is for you. Rated R for strong bloody violence. 2 STARS
PAN’S LABYRINTH A young girl travels back and forth between two worlds. One is a fantasy land with fairies and strange creatures and the other is the world of an evil stepfather who is part of the fascist regime fighting rebels in rural Spain in 1944. In Spanish with subtitles. Strong performances, great special effects and a story that will have you wondering what is real and what is not. Rated R. 4 Stars
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA This is the Japanese side of the story told in the film Flags Of Our Fathers, the Clint Eastwood directed story of the American invasion of Iwo Jima. In Japanese with subtitles, this is a remarkable film which shows the universality of the effects of war on the soldiers who are caught up in it. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
ALPHA DOG Based on real life events in Los Angeles six years ago, Alpha Dog is the story of teenagers with too much money, drugs and alcohol and too much time on their hands. Justin Timberlake stars as one in the group that gets involved in a kidnapping that turns very bad. The film starts with a party feeling and ends in a violent tragedy. Incredible performances in a film that is edgy, raw, real, and very well done. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
CHILDREN OF MEN Story takes place in 2027 when the world is rocked by chaos and infertility. People can no longer reproduce and the youngest person in the world, an 18 yr. old, has just died. Clive Owen plays Theo, a reluctant hero who takes on the incredible task of saving the only pregnant woman on earth and possibly saving the human race. Action and intrigue and good performances from all including costars Julianne Moore and Michael Caine. Rate R. 4 Stars.
CODE NAME: THE CLEANER Cedric the Entertainer plays Jake, a janitor who can’t remember who he is when he wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead FBI agent. Jake can’t remember anything, but a lot of people are after him because they think Jake knows the location of a valuable computer chip that could jeopardize national security. It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy co-starring Lucy Liu and Nicolette Sheridan. Moderately funny. PG-13 3 Stars.
NOTES ON A SCANDAL Judi Dench plays an established schoolteacher who knows the secret of an illicit affair of a new teacher, played by Cate Blanchett. The older begins to control the younger in a psycholigal thriller about lust, love, deceit, jealousy and lies. Outstanding performances, but the story will make you squirm with discomfort. Rated R. 4 Stars.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD Robert De Niro directs this fictional account of the genesis of the CIA, told through the story of one man, James Wilson (Matt Damon), and those closest to him, including his wife Clover (Angelina Jolie) and associates (De Niro, Joe Pesci). Way too long. Sometimes confusing. I can’t recommend it. Rated R 2.5 Stars
ROCKY BALBOA Sylvester Stallone returns for what is basically Rocky 6. Does he pull it off? Yes he does! Very entertaining and quite believable too. An old guy in the ring battling a young tough champ is a tough sell, but this movie works. Rated PG. FOUR STARS
BLOOD DIAMOND Story takes place in Sierra Leone in 1999, a time of civil war. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Danny Archer, an entrepreneur in Africa who specializes in smuggling diamonds. Djimon Hounsou plays Solomon, a man whose family is forced to flee as he is forced into slave labor, mining diamonds. Solomon finds a stone the size of an ice cube and Danny says he’ll help him get his family back in exchange for the big diamond. Great performances, lots of action and a bit of a history lesson too. Excellent. Rated R 4 Stars
THE HOLIDAY Cameron Diaz breaks up with her boyfriend in California, Cate Winslet is jilted by her lover in London. The women swap houses for the holiday period and find new boyfriends too. Cameron Diaz meets Jude Law, Cate meets Jack Black. It’s a too warm-and-fuzzy story that intentionally tries to pull on your emotions. Too long but most women will likely love it. PG-13. 2.5 Stars. APACOPOLYPTO The story takes place in the pre-Columbus Mayan jungle of what is now known as Central America. It was a time when the powerful captured the vulnerable to be their slaves and to offer as sacrifices to the gods. One man is taken from his family and escapes to try to save them. If you like chase scenes and survival films, you’ll like this one. All the dialogue is in the native language, with subtitles. Lots of action, plenty of violence and I found it totally engrossing. Rated R. 4.5 Stars.
HAPPY FEET It’s the animated story of a little penguin who is different than the other penguins. They can sing, but he can’t. What he can do is dance up a storm, something very different and not accepted by a society that want him to conform. Good story with subtle messages. Kids will love it, some adults too. Celebrity voices include Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Brittany Murphy. PG 3.5 Stars
CASINO ROYALE The new James bond movie starsDaniel Craig who some are calling James BLOND. The story starts at the beginning of James Bond’s career when he first became a double-o agent. Great action, stunts and performances from all concerned. Daniel Craig is excellent in this totally entertaining film. PG-13 4 Stars
STRANGER THAN FICTION Will Ferrell, in a somewhat different role for him, plays Harold Crick, a boring guy in a boring job with the IRS. He’s an auditor and spends his days working with numbers. One morning, while brushing his teeth with the same number of strokes he does every day, Harold hears a woman’s voice in his head describing what he’s doing. The voice follows his every move, describing what he’s doing and Harold starts to think he’s crazy. The voice is that of an author who is writing a novel about a guy named Harold Crick. Emma Thompson plays the writer, Kay Eiffel, and she is famous for killing off the main character in all of her novels. So when Harold hears the voice say, “little did he know he would soon be dead”, panic sets in as Harold must find the author before she kills him. A delightful romantic comedy. Also costarring Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah. PG 13. 4 Stars
BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN. Comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, who many know as Ali G, assumes the character of Borat, a TV reporter from Kazakhstan making a documentary as he explores the USA. This movie is hysterical! A million laughs. He offends everyone in the funniest movie of the year. Rated R. 4.5 Stars
FLUSHED AWAY Computer generated animation that resembles the claymation of the Wallace & Gromit movies. Flushed Away is the story of Roddy Saint James, a pet mouse who lives a lonely life as the pet of a well-to-do family. Roddy gets flushed down the loo and finds adventure and love in the sewers of London. Celebrity voices include Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslett, Sir Ian McKellen, Bill Nighy, and Jean Reno. Rated PG 3.5 Stars
BABEL Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal star in this drama that starts with Cate Blanchett getting shot on a tour bus in Morroco. The story leads us to Japan, where the original owner of the rifle in that shooting lives with his deaf daughter. Meanwhile, in San Diego, the children of the Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett characters are being taken-by their nanny, into Mexico to attend a wedding. Like the movie “Crash” the stories all connect in a most excellent way. I liked it very much. Rated R. 4 Stars
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS This film tells the story behind the famous WWII picture of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Clint Eastwood directs and the cast includes Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford, Paul Walker, Barry Pepper and more. The story flashes between the battle of Iwo Jima, and the somewhat sad aftermath for three of the survivors who were in that famous photograph and had fame thrust upon them. They were seen as heroes and used by the military and the government to raise money to continue fighting the war. But the real story behind the battle and the picture haunted the young men and profoundly affected their lives. The U.S. lost 2,000 men on the first day of that invasion. Flags of Our Fathers might be an Oscar contender. I think it is excellent. Rated R. Four Stars.
THE PRESTIGE Like “The Illusionist”, The Prestige is about magicians at the beginning of the 20th century. It could be called dueling magicians. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are apprentice magicians assisting another when something goes wrong and one of their wives dies. That begins a competition that turns into a feud that becomes an obsession and a rather boring and often confusing movie where Scarlett Johansson is the woman both men want. The film rambles and hops around more than a rabbit jumping from a hat. Not good. PG-13 1 Star
MAN OF THE YEAR You knew him, you loved him as Mork, now he’s running for president. Robin Williams stars as Tom Dobbs, a funny talk-show host who does a lot of political humor. When a fan in the audience suggests he run for President, he laughs it off, but the idea catches on, gains momentum and he enters the race as a joke. Tom Dobbs is more popular than he thought and he gets elected President of the USA. A comedian in the white house-who knew this could happen? Much of the movie is Robin Williams doing what he does best, being funny. OK story, but it falls flat in the middle. If you like Robin Williams you’ll like “Man of the Year” a lot. Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum, and Lewis Black round out the cast. PG-13, 3 Stars
INFAMOUS Based on the true story of writer Truman Capote’s investigation into the 1959 murders of a wealthy Kansas family of four, ”Infamous” covers the same ground as last year’s “Capote”. What starts out as an idea for a magazine article turns out to be a complex and intense journey which culminates in Truman writing the best seller “In Cold Blood”. I liked “Infamous” better than “Capote”. Rated R. 4 Stars
THE DEPARTED Director Martin Scorcese has assembled an all star cast with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg In a story about the cops against organized crime in Boston. DiCaprio plays an undercover cop who infiltrates the crew of gangland boss Costello, played by Jack Nicholson. Meanwhile Matt Damon infiltrates the state police and he’s working for the crime boss. The cops have a mole, and the mobsters have a mole and we’re watching it all, pulled into a very violent and very well done film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen provide strong supporting roles. Rated R 4 Stars.
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH Is one of the worst movies of the year. Dane Cook, Dax Shepard, Jessica Simpson, and Andy Dick all work at the Super Club store, similar to Costco. The lame script has Dax Shepard breaking all records for consecutive employee of the month and Dane Cook as a slacker who changes his ways to try to get the girl. It’s awful. PG-13. ½ Star.
THE GUARDIAN In the tradition of “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Top Gun” comes “The Guardian”. Kevin Costner plays a veteran Coast Guard rescue swimmer who loses his crew in a crash at sea. To recover from the tragedy he is sent to a school to train new Coast Guard rescue swimmers and there he meets a young upstart played by Ashton Kutcher. He was a high-school swim star and is in for some surprises under the tutelage of the old pro. Good story, dangerous rescues, solid special effects but a little too long. PG-13 3.5 Stars.
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP Gaea Garcia Bernal plays a guy whose dreams invade his waking hours. At times he can’t tell if he’s awake or sleeping and dreaming. The two worlds collide and the collision was often confusing to me. It’s a very unusual fantasy comedy written and directed by Michel Gondry who also gave us “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Rated R. 2.5 Stars.
SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS Napoleon Dynamite’s John Heder plays Roger, a wimpy N.Y. meter maid with low self-esteem. To change his life he enrolls in a secret confidence-building class run by Dr. P, a rough and ruthless teacher played by Billy Bob Thornton. Dr. P promises to release your ‘inner lion’ but some of his questionable tactics involve him going after your girl. Lame story, lame movie. PG-13 1.5 Stars
FLYBOYS The first World War I aviation film in over 40 years, FLYBOYS is inspired by the epic, courageous tale of the American young men who would become known as the legendary Lafayette Escadrille. They were ordinary boys who volunteered to fly for the French at the beginning of the first World War. They were boys looking for adventure, and in the process, they became men and heroes. I liked it. PG-13 3.5 Stars
ALL THE KING’S MEN This is the remake of the classic 1949 political thriller that takes place in the great state of Louisiana. This version is in the 1950’s. It stars Sean Penn as a com-from-nowhere “hick” who becomes a political powerhouse as the governor of the state who promises to eliminate corruption. But corruption, intrigue, and political influence follow the governor’s career. The all-star cast includes Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ruffalo, and James Gandolfini. Sean Penn delivers an Oscar worthy performance. PG-13. 3.5 Stars.
THE BLACK DAHLIA Based on real-life events and the novel by James Elroy. Directed by Brian DePalma, this is a fictionalized tale of obsession, love, corruption, greed and lust in 1947 Hollywood. Josh Hartnet and Arron Eckhart play L.A. detectives, Scarlett Johannson and Hillary Swank plays the women in their lives in a story filled with too many subplots for me. Convoluted and sometimes hard to follow. But it looks good. Rated R. 2 Stars.
THE LAST KISS
Zach Braff jumps out of his scrubs and onto the big screen in “The Last Kiss”. This is a contemporary drama about life and love and obsession and infatuation and marriage and infidelity and divorce sprinkled with a few laughs throughout. A great cast delivers very strong performances. Along with Zach, you have Casey Affleck, Blyth Danner, Tom Wilkenson, Jacinda Barrett. They’re all very good. The story follows the romantic ups and downs of all the characters but settles on Zach’s problems as he comes to grips with committing to a woman. Rated R. 3.5 Stars