Saturday, February 13, 2010

February Movie Reviews Part 2

I'm feeling better now (Part 1 has all the details).  I'm still continuing towards my goal of watching one movie for every weekday in 2010.  So without further ado, here's the rest of what I've seen so far:

12 Monkeys

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about a man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

Rated #172 in the Top 250 films on, and nominated for 2 Oscars.

1995, Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller. Dir. Terry Gilliam. Rated R.

This was less of a "my kind" of film. It was harsh and bleak to watch. There were plot twists and turns, time travel back and forth, and it wasn't always easy for me to follow. Perhaps not the best choice for a delicate flower with a brain injury like myself - but a good film for someone else. Bruce Willis is very much in a role that seems made for him. Brad Pitt wasn't bad - perhaps it was that I just didn't care for the character. He was at times too over-the-top in a way that was distracting me from the story - and plot is something you need to pay attention to.

3:10 To Yuma

A small-time rancher agrees to hold a captured outlaw who's awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. A battle of wills ensues as the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.

Nominated for 2 Oscars.

2007, Western. Dir. James Mangold. Rated R.

I love this film. The first time I saw it on a SAG preview screener back in '07, I was so impressed with Ben Foster's performance as Charlie Prince, I could hardly contain myself. He was that movie for me. This time, it was Russell Crowe as Ben Wade who had my attention. I did not see the 3:10 to Yuma from 1957 - but I can't imagine it being as good as this version. If you want to see actors bringing multiple levels to their roles, and you haven't seen a good Western in ages - this is a must-see film.

A Good Year

A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle as he tries to renovate the estate to be sold.

2006, Comedy/Drama/Romance. Dir. Ridley Scott. Rated PG-13.

After being so impressed with Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma, I decided to watch this film. I found this to be an enjoyable film - vaguely reminding me of Under the Tuscan Sun. I can connect with the theme/plot - it's not dissimilar to my own path through life. And once again, after hearing stories of what Russell Crowe is like when he plays himself, I thought he brought something special to his role in this film. Maybe I wouldn't want to be his pal off-set, but from what I've seen, I'd be happy to watch him in other films.

Alien Nation

Aliens, known as Newcomers, begin to be integrated into human society after years of quarantine but are victims of a new type of discrimination.

Won a Saturn Award.

1988, Crime/Drama/Sci-Fi. Dir. Graham Baker. Rated R.

I have to be honest, I only saw this film because I know Kevyn Major Howard (Rudyard Kipling) - and it was really cool seeing him as an Alien. Some films from long ago "age" well, and some seem a little dated when one sees them many years after their release. There were times where I was reminded of just how long ago 1988 was - and yet the issue of racism is always something I like to see explored in film, then or now. Characters can grow, learn and change - can't we (mankind) also? If you loved the 80's, watch this movie and be taken back to that era.

Angels & Demons

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.

Nominated for 2 Teen Choice Awards.

2009, Mystery/Thriller. Dir. Ron Howard. Rated PG-13.

And exciting film to watch, picturesque and full of action. It's a great date movie - leaves you with a lot to talk about. I was surprised by the plot twists, no surprise there. There's a lot I don't see coming. I liked the The Da Vinci Code too. I'm not sure which of the two films I thought was better, but Tom Hanks is always brilliant to watch.

Annie Hall

Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.

Rated #132 in the Top 250 movies on Won 4 Oscars.

1977, Comedy/Drama/Romance. Dir. Woody Allen. Rated PG.

Four Oscars, and you know what? It didn't tickle my fancy as it did everyone else. There was something about Woody's character that I just couldn't quite get why Annie liked him to begin with. I'll put some more thought into it some day as to what it was exactly that rubbed me the wrong way, but for me - I'd have rather seen something else.

Death at a Funeral
Chaos ensues when a man tries to expose a dark secret regarding a recently deceased patriarch of a dysfunctional British family.

2007, Comedy. Dir. Frank Oz. Rated R.

This is a dark comedy with odd characters in shocking situations. Complete chaos ensues, and the Brits do this type of film best, I think. And the end..! But I don't want to give it away. :)

That's all I'm going to do for this entry. Many more to come! If you have a suggestion for a film I shouldn't miss seeing this year, let me know on Twitter @cybercat19.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

February Movie Review Part One

I've been sick - got a Dutch stomach flu, but still managed to keep up with my movie watching goal for 2010 so far.  When I was a kid, we didn't have a television.  Going out to see a movie in a theater was a rare event.  Then I was homeless through much of my teen years and into my twenties, so again, seeing a film was a rare occurrence.

Once I got into the entertainment industry as an actor, then directing, writing and producing, I noticed that I started watching films in a completely different way that before.  It was no longer simply an escape from my life into someone else's, but I began noticing the way shots were set up, how lines were delivered, body language that worked (or didn't) for the actors, lighting, and so on. 

Lucky for me, my brother is also a screenwriter and actor.  He never minded seeing a movie with me, talking in the theater together, making note of performances that inspired us, or sometimes suffering through bad editing or poor direction with me.  We live on opposite sides of the world now, so this year I'm watching movies alone, and blogging my thoughts with you instead.

Loglines are from

A remake of the classic Shakespeare play "The Taming of the Shrew" set in a modern day high school. Starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger.

I had not seen Heath Ledger perform before watching this film. He seems to have such magnetism on-screen. The rest of the story and actors were fine, but he really shone above and beyond the rest of the cast. If you're not a teen or young adult, though, the story can seem a bit... young.

1999, Comedy/Romance, Dir. Gil Junger. Rated PG-13.

Domestic and professional tensions mount when a husband and wife work as opposing lawyers in a case involving a woman who shot her husband. Starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn.

They just don't make movies like they used to. Katharine Hepburn is so wonderful to watch, and the story line seemed to me to be as relevant today as it was then. There were different standards for men and women then, and now. In some ways that's good, and some ways that's bad. What's better now is that we can talk about it more openly. This was an Oscar-nominated film - and it was great fun to watch.

1949, Comedy/Romance, Dir. George Cukor.

A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories.

I have a special connection to this documentary - I absolutely know what these people in the US and outside go through. I don't personally care for Michael Moore's style and methods, but I think this documentary should be mandatory viewing for anyone without an opinion on health care. I have my own personal negative experiences when I was living in the US without health care, or later on Medicare. If someone other than a "health professional" had been involved in some of my experiences, I could have brought criminal charges against them. Now, although I live in a country whose idea of medicine is sometimes behind the US by 25 or 50 years, I have medical coverage with no questions asked, I receive medical care when I need it, and there aren't charges, billing, co-pays or any of the other bullcrap that was typical from America. Yeah, I have an opinion on this one. Nominated for an Oscar.

2007, Documentary, Dir. Michael Moore. Rated PG-13.

An eastern immigrant finds himself stranded in JFK airport, and must take up temporary residence there. Starring Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

I'm not sure if this touched me so much because I know the immigration system, or because I am a foreigner living in a land where I don't know much about the language, culture or customs. I cried throughout the film (in a good way). Tom Hanks was excellent and Steven Spielberg is magical as the director. I can see how one might miss the brilliance if one hasn't traveled further than 50 miles from home, but for those of us who have lived in countries (short or long-term) other than our homeland, you'll get it.

2004, Drama/Romance/Comedy, Dir. Steven Spielberg. Rated PG-13.

Two films in one DVD - 1. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: To improve its relations with Muslim countries, the US government sends comedian Albert Brooks to south Asia to write a report on what makes followers of Islam laugh. And - 2. Defending Your Life: In an afterlife resembling the present-day US, people must prove their worth by showing in court how they have demonstrated courage. Starring Albert Brooks.

I was in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (although it looks as if my scene was cut - too bad, I was in a Burka!) so I had been wanting to see this film for a long time. Don't waste your time, it's terrible. Much better is Defending Your Life which not only has a better story idea, but is a better performance by Albert Brooks. Having been dead myself, I can tell you it's nothing like this - but it's an hour or two of entertainment at least.

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World: 2005, Comedy, Dir Albert Brooks. Rated PG-13.

Defending Your Life: 1991, Comedy/Fantasy, Dir. Albert Brooks. Rated PG.

What does it take to become a Stepford wife, a woman perfect beyond belief? Ask the Stepford husbands, who've created this terrifying little town. Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken.

I have a brain injury, and even I was saying to myself "no way, that doesn't work at all." It wasn't the fault of the actors - story logic was thrown out the window and there are plot holes you could drive a car into. It was however very pretty to look at. If you like flash with nothing else, watch this remake. If you have more of a brain, read the book or watch the original film.

2004, Comedy/Fantasy/Thriller, Dir. Frank Oz. Rated PG-13.

More reviews to come when I'm feeling better. For now, I've been Twittering short thoughts on each film as I see it. Catch me over there @cybercat19