New Releases for July 6th, 2010
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke), a Narcotics officer, lives with his wife, Angela (Lili Taylor), and seven kids in an apartment that has mold which exacerbates Angelaís asthma. They desperately need money to move to a new apartment, so itís up to Sal to figure out a way to provide it. He puts his life on the line when he considers stealing money from drug dealers while on a drug bust in Brooklyn. Just one week before his pension plan begins, Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), a burned-out cop, attempts to kill himself by pointing a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger, but canít bring himself to do it. He must show the ropes to two rookie cops in his Brooklyn precinct. Chantel (Shannon Kane), a prostitute, has sex with Eddie and cares more about him emotionally than her other clients. Will she give up her life of prostitution to start a new life with him outside of the crime-infested city? Finally, Clarence Butler (Don Cheadle), an undercover cop known as Tango on the streets, goes through a serious dilemma when he must kill Caz (Wesley Snipes), a drug dealer recently released from prison who had once saved his life. Screenwriter Michael C. Martin recycles many plotlines and conflicts that can be found in superior crime thrillers such as The Departed andTraining Day, but what keeps the film engaging are the solid performances and a few intense sequences. The film jumps back and form between the gritty events that surround Sal, Eddie and Tango so often that you never really get a chance to get to know any of them enough to root for one of them. Concurrently, they each go through complex moral dilemmas that often blur the line between right and wrong for themóespecially when it comes the policeís aggressive tactics that lead to drug dealers/addicts dead from gunshot wounds during a raid. Director Antoine Fuqua keeps the pace moving briskly and includes terrific cinematography with gritty visuals that turn the streets of Brooklyn into a character in itself. He could have trimmed some of the action sequences a bit so that the film wouldnít drag occasionally during its running time of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Ultimately, Brooklynís Finest offers no surprises, is far from a classic and has forgettable characters, but at least itís mildly engaging thanks to solid performances and Fuquaís stylish directing. Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by Overture Films.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
In Swedish with subtitles. Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a financial jounralist convicted of libel, gets a new assignment when an elderly, wealthy tycoon, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), invites him over to his home. Henrik tells him about his niece, Harriet, who had mysteriously vanished forty year ago and has not been found ever since. He wants Mikael to solve the case as efficiently as possible, but itís easier said than done. In a parallel subplot, Lisbeth Sander (Noomi Rapace), a very skilled computer hacker suffering from a behavioral disorder, turns the tables on her probation officer who had raped her. Henrik eventually hires her to help Mikael with the mystery in ways that wonít be spoiled here. Itís very exciting, intriguing and suspenseful to watch the plot unfold because youíll find many unexpected, clever twists and turns that transpire as Mikael and Lisbeth get deeper and deeper into the disappearance case. They, as well as you, desperately want to figure out whether or not Harriet is still alive, who may have wanted her to be ďdisappeared,Ē and, most importantly, why she ďdisappeared.Ē Co-screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg do a great job of withholding information from the audience so that you follow Mikael and Lisbeth along for the edge-of-your seat ride that gets darker and darker. The intricacies of the mystery arenít quite as brilliant as the ones found in Tell No One, but youíll still find yourself struggling to point a finger at the culprit(s) while trying to single out the red herring(s). Director Niels Arden Oplev moves the pace along briskly and includes a well-chosen, pulsating musical score that adds to the suspense. The real pleasure here, though, is watching Noomi Rapace as she radiates the screen with her raw and captivating performance as Lisbeth, one of the most lively, memorable characters in recent memory because of her tough, rebellious, subversive attitude and very stylish, gothic look (not-to-mention her large dragon tattoo) as well as her sheer intelligence when it comes to technology. Sheís a breath of fresh air and helps to invigorate the film. At a running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes, The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo manages to be an intriguing, intelligent and suspenseful thriller boasting a radiant, captivating performance by the scene-stealing Noomi Rapace.Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Released by Music Box Films.
New Releases for July 13th, 2010
The Bounty Hunter
Directed by Andy Tennant.
Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler), a bounty hunter who used to be a police officer, goes on a job assignment to hunt down and apprehend Nicole Hurly (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter who happens to be his ex-wife. Sheís in trouble for skipping bail for a mere traffic violation. He will get paid $5,000 if he brings her into the police station. Just as he tracks her down, she tells him about a murder mystery that sheís reporting on for her job, so she does everything in her ability to free herself from him so that she can get back to work. Will he help her solve the mystery? Will he bring her to the police station so that he can get his $5,000? Will Milo and Nicole kindle their romantic spark that they had when they were married? Unfortunately, screenwriter Sarah Thorp has no idea how to blend a variety of genres together because the comedy awkwardly gyrates back and forth between all the action, suspense, drama and romance which create more nausea than laughter or palpable tension. Milo and Nicole have virtually zero chemistry together onscreen and even their banter and bickering isnít remotely sharp or fun to listen to. Youíll find yourself longing for films such as the classic Adamís Rib which has far more intelligently written quips and rapports between a man and woman as well as lots charisma, chemistry and charm which The Bounty Hunter also lacks. Whenever Milo and Nicole talk to one another, youíll end up feeling annoyed and rolling your eyes at some of the corniness. The visual gags, which range from dark comedy to sexy comedy and dark comedy, are cheap, forced and juvenile. On a positive note, the fleeting laughs come from some of members of the support cast, namely, Christine Baranski, Carol Kane and Jeff Garlin and the underrated Siobhan Fallon who briefly add a much needed oomph to an otherwise underwhelming film. At a lengthy running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, The Bounty Hunter overstays its welcome and ends up as one of the most unfunny, vapid and nauseatingly convoluted romcoms in recent memory. The lively supporting cast at least helps to keep you briefly awake. Number of times I checked my watch: 6 Released by Columbia Pictures.
Directed by Atom Egoyan.
Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore), a gynecologist, suspects that her husband, David (Liam Neeson), a music professor, might be cheating on her after he misses a flight home and she reads a text message sent to him by one of his female students. She hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a high-end prostitute, merely meet and converse with David in order to learn whether or not heíll try hit on her. The situation gets out of hand when Chloe claims that David had yielded to her seductions by having sex with her. Catherine even asks her for all of the juicy details and, all-of-a-sudden, finds herself physically attracted to her. She and Chloe engage in a sexually-charged relationship and, soon enough, Chloe also tries to seduce Catherineís teenage son, Michael (Max Thieriot). The screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson has its fair share of thrills and intrigue up until the scene where Chloe and Catherine initiate their steamy affair, but, after that, the suspense wanes and the plot begins to feel rather convoluted, unimaginative and somewhat silly. Moreover, too much is spelled out and spoon-fed to the audience rather than allowing them to use their intelligence to deduce or infer from any subtleties (which, in this case, donít really exist). Itís as if Wilson didnít quite know what to do with the material from that point on and, therefore, the plotís momentum essentially runs out of steam. Fortunately, Amanda Seyfriedís sizzling scenes as Chloe along with Julianne Mooreís raw, brave and honest performance as Catherine help to invigorate the film and to keep your eyes mostly glued to the screen. Director Atom Egoyan, who also directed Adoration, Where the Truth Lies and Exotica, includes an appropriately brisk pace, exquisite cinematography and a well-chosen musical score. If only he were to have a tighter screenplay with a much less preposterous third act, Chloe would have been consistently brilliant and suspenseful. At a running time of 1 hour and 36 minutes, Chloe manages to be a seductive and mostly intriguing erotic thriller that eventually loses steam and veers toward silliness while failing to trust the audienceís intelligence. Amanda Seyfried sizzles, though. Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by Mike Roth and John Henning.
This provocative, absorbing and well-balanced documentary follows the events that followed after the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court declared the ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional. In turn, legislators proposed an amendment that would allow only for marriages to be between a man and a woman. Gay rights activists want gays and lesbians to be treated equally and fairly without discrimination. Those in favor of the amendment to ban gay marriage seem to have a problem with homosexuality itself, as one perceptive interviewee admits, but itís much more complicated than that. Kris Mineau, head of the Massachusetts Family Institute, readily admits that he canít imagine a child being able to deal emotionally with having two same-sex parents and, therefore, it would cause confusion. Co-directors Mike Roth and John Henning do a great job of showing both sides of the issue as the amendment goes through a series voting procedures. Youíll be moved and inspired by how gay and lesbian couples come together to voice their opinions and to, basically, show to those on the other side of the issue that theyíre human beings with feelings, thoughts and concerns just like everyone else. Arline Isaacson, a gay-rights activist, along with Carl Sciortino , whoís running for Congress, and many others work diligently to try to convince legislators to vote against the amendment. Itís quite gripping to watch what happens as they courageously continue on their important mission to promote basic human rights, which isnít easy in a society that has homophobic, prejudice and intolerant people that they must deal with. Regardless of which side of the issue of gay marriage youíre on, Saving Marriage manages to be a thoroughly compelling, insightful and important documentary. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by Regent Releasing/Here! Films.
Directed by Henrik Ruben Genz.
In Danish with subtitles. Based on the novel by Erling Jepsen. Robert (Jakob Cedergren), a police officer, transfers to Skarrild, a small town in Denmark, after suffering from a nervous breakdown and committing some sort of misdeed back in Copenhagen. He calls his wife every now and then and leaves messages on her machine, but she repeatedly doesnít pick up the phone or call him back. When a young boy gets caught shoplifting for the second time, Robert learns that the law enforcement in Skarrild prefers to use violence and aggressive over standard protocol, so heís told to hit the boy instead of to arrest him. He meets Ingelise (Lene Maria Christensen), a woman whoís abused by her domineering, alcoholic husband, Jorgen (Kim Bodnia). Ingelise seeks comfort from Robert and, soon, they have a secret, sexually-charged love affair. Director/co-writer Henrik Ruben Genz combines gritty action, psychological thrills, suspense, drama and dark humor in a very smooth, compelling and refreshingly intriguing way thatís very Coen-esque and even Lynchian in its different tones. Just when you think the plot will veer in a particular direction, it suddenly shifts gears and surprises you with its twists. To explain the events that occur as a result of the love affair between Robert and Ingelise would spoil the surprises. If the screenplay werenít so organic, filled with intricate details and well-developed characters, the twists would seem gimmicky and contrived rather than clever and realistic within the context of the narrative itself. In the most crime thrillers nowadays, i.e. Edge of Darkness, the first act follows with a mediocre second act and then onto a convoluted, messy third act. Here, though, the transition from one act to the other seems smooth and consistently well-written without insulting your intelligence or creating nausea through confusion and convoluted subplots. Moreover, Jakob Cedergen gives a solid performance that masters Robertís toughness as a police officer as well as his fragility as a human being with a moral conscience. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Terribly Happy manages to be a taut, intriguing and refreshingly well-crafted crime thriller brimming with many clever twists and turns. Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Vivere - Directed by Angelina Maccarone.
In German with subtitles. Francesca (Esther Zimmering), a taxi driver, searches for her younger sister, Antoinetta (Kim Schnitzer) on Christmas Eve while dealing with her affections for Gerlinde (Hannelore Elsner), lonely older woman who she saves from a car accident. Despite decent performances, especially by Hannelore Elser, Vivere has a somewhat dull and confusing plot, especially with its shifts in perspective which rewinds the narrative, just like in Go. Writer/director Angeline Maccarone includes very little character development and melodramatic scenes that belong in a soap opera. The romance between Gerlinde and Antoinette feels contrived and awkward rather than poignant. Number of times I checked my watch: 6. Released by Regent Releasing.
New Releases for July 20th, 2010
House of Numbers
Directed by Brent Leung.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Released by Knowledge Matters, LLC.
Directed by Sylvain White.
Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) leads a team of mercenaries who find themselves double-crossed by the CIA during a black ops mission in the Bolivian Jungle. A sexy operative, Aisha (Zoe Saldana), helps him along with the other members of his team, Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short), and Cougar (”scar Jaenada), to cross the border back into the United States safely because the CIA assumes that they all have died in a crash during the black ops mission. They set out to retaliate against Max (Jason Patrick) the CIA agent who double-crossed them. Max has a diabolical plan to purchase nuclear weapons from terrorists which would wreak havoc all over the world. Anyone who expects character development or a sense of realism should look elsewhere. Every scene from the get-go is silly and highly preposterous, but a lot of fun. Director Sylvain White includes very stylish. Invigorating cinematography and fast-paced editing along with lots of thrilling chases, explosions and violence which should please audience members who arenít looking for anything more than some mindless action and a totally inane plot with equally dumb characters. The Losers the kind of action comedy that doesnít have an identity crisis like most films nowadays (i.e. The Bounty Hunter, among others) because itís consistently, undeniably silly and proud of its stupidity every single step of the way from start to finish. Had there been a romantic subplot involved, it would be distracting and take away from the filmís momentum. Jason Patrick provides the most laughs with his campy, over-the-top portrayal of a cartoonish villain. ”scar Jaenada, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chris Evans have some laugh-out-loud scenes as well., The Losers is consistently preposterous, action-packed, delightfully campy, and wildly entertaining as long as you donít mind checking your brain at the door for 98 minutes.
/center>Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho.
In Korean with subtitles. Yoon Hye-Ja (Kim Hye-ja), lives in a small Korean town with her mentally retarded son, Do-joon (Won Bin), and works as an acupuncturist/herbalist. Do-Joon and his good friend, Jin-tae (Jin Ku), hunt down and beat up a bunch of guys responsible for crashing their car into theirs in a hit-and-run accident. Afterwards, in an unrelated incident, the police arrest Do-Joon and implicate him for the murder of a teenage girl whose body was found slumped over a wall as if it were dirty laundry. His mother believes that heís innocent even though the police remain utterly convinced that heís the murderer, so she does everything in her abilities to find the real killer to prove the police wrong. Is Do-joon innocent or his is mother jumping to conclusions based on her motherly love? Director/co-writer Bong Joon-ho , who previously directed The Host, wisely chooses not to show the murder taking place until the very revealing third act. Until that point, though, youíll find yourself at the edge of your seat as you wonder what precisely happened and why. Kim Hye-ja delivers a raw, brave performance as the mother thatís filled with just the right balance of anger, frustration and fragility. Sheís a character worth rooting for because sheís smart, tough and deeply loves her son. The extent to which she goes to protect him wonít be spoiled here, though. Joon-ho creates a very intense atmosphere throughout the film that never lets go of its grip---the mood occasionally veers a bit toward creepiness, making you feeling as if you were watching a horror film. Itís also worth mentioning the surprising touch of comic relief which lightens the mood while offsetting the darker, heavier tones. The last half-hour has so many clever twists that you might find your head spinning around, but youíll never feel cheated or roll your eyes because the twists are all character-driven and transpire logically by the internal mechanisms of the plot rather than as cheap gimmicks. At a running time of 2 hours and 8 minutes, Mother manages to be a riveting, intelligent and engrossing murder-mystery boasting an unforgettably brave and captivating performance by Kim Hye-ja.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by Magnolia Pictures.
New Releases for July 27th, 2010
The Art of the Steal
Directed by Don Argott.
This fascinating and suspenseful documentary charts the dramatic events that occurred when politicians along with art institutions struggled to move the Barnes Foundation from the small suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania all the way to the city of Philadelphia, against the wishes of its founderís will. At the age of 50, Dr. Albert C. Barnes had already collected a variety of early Modern and Post-Impressionist paintings ranging from works by Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Van Gogh, among others, with a cumulative value of over $25 billion today. He displayed the paintings in a small museum outside of Philadelphia specifically so that everyday people who arenít so accustomed to viewing artworks would get the chance to do so. Moreover, he looked down upon the elitist art critics who considered his art collection to be nothing more than junk. When he died in a car accident back in 1951, he stated clearly in his will that Lincoln University ought to have control over the Barnes Foundation and the painting ought to stay at its small museum in Merion no matter what. The Foundationís endowment was mishandled throughout the years, leaving the Foundation vulnerable for other institutions to purchase and move it to another location in an attempt to save the collection. Director Don Argott looks at many different sides of the issue by interviewing former attorney general Mike Fisher, former Barnes president Richard Glanton as well as friends of Barnes, among others, who shed light from their perspective. You might find it a little difficult to assess the moral implications of moving of the Barnes Foundation objectively because the filmís title directly states that whatís occurring is a theft of art. In reality, though, the issue of the theft has a lot of grey area and itís somewhat exciting to watch the footage of the desperate battle to respect Barnesí wishes. No matter which side of the issue you choose to lean toward, youíll probably feel enraged at how this microcosm of greed, lack of appreciation for an art collectorís wishes, and simple-mindedness about the art can lead to corruption with the help of politicians, not surprisingly, and a cross of moral boundaries. Ultimately, The Art of the Steal manages to be a thoroughly compelling, well-edited and riveting documentary that finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by IFC Films.
Directed by Julia Grayer.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Released by Virgil Films & Entertainment.
Clash of the Titans
Directed by Louis Leterrier.
Perseus (Sam Worthington), the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), sets out on a mission to defeat Zeusí brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the God of the Underworld, in retaliation for killing his adopted family. He desperately tries to save Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) from getting killed by a giant monster called the Kraken. Hades wants to seize control of Argos from Zeus and to unleash hell on earth. In order to kill Hades, Perseus, a demigod, must defeat the Kraken, but to accomplish that, he must first chop off the head of Medusa and point her gaze toward the monster, thereby turning it into stone. A group of warriors, including Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), join Perseus on his adventure along with his guide, Io (Gemma Arterton). The screenplay, co-written by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, has essentially drained out all of the fun, thrills and excitement out of the original Clash of the Titans released back in 1981. Itís not a requirement for a Sci-Fi action adventure to have believable and true-to-life characters, but the hero, in this case Perseus, should at least be interesting and worth rooting for rather than bland and forgettable like the rest of the cardboard characters. The dramatic scenes fall flat while the action sequences have so much shaky camerawork and fast-paced editing that you can barely notice whatís going on throughout them. Director Louis Leterrier awkwardly transitions the action scenes with the dramatic scenes in a way thatís distracting and, at times, abrupt. One of the most laughably corny and contrived scenes is when Perseus is told that heís both a great human being and a great god, but the film never really fleshes out the human side of Perseus, so thereís no proof of him being such a great human to begin with. When it comes to the special effects, youíll feel so numbed by the CGI visuals, especially in unimpressive 3D, that it the purely aesthetic exhilaration quickly diminishes. Clash of the Titans is just as inane and lacking in thrills as Battlefield Earth, but at least Battlefield Earth offered campy dialogue and never actually committed the worst sin that any Sci-fi action film could possibly commit: boring the audience. At a running time of 1 hour of 46 minutes, Clash of the Titans manages to be dull, tedious, poorly paced, anti-climactic and, worst of all, one of the most boring and underwhelming blockbusters in recent memory.
Number of times I checked my watch: 8 Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Directed by Fouad Mikati.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 6 Released by Anchor Bay Films. Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
Based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia. In a futuristic world, Remy (Jude Law) works as a repo man for The Union, a corporation that creates artificial donor organs which help to extend the life of its clients. Remy, with the help of his coworker, Jake (Forest Whitaker), must track down clients who have failed to make their payments and must repossess their organs by force. Everything goes pretty smoothly until Remy finds himself in a hospital bed after an accident at work that nearly left him shocked to death. He learns that he has an artificial heart created by The Union, so now heís one of their clients. His new heart changes the way that he feels about his job and heís no longer able to ignore his conscience by extracting the organs from clients which his job description requires him to do. Remyís boss, Frank (Live Schreiber), does everything in his power to stop Remy from going against The Unionís protocol. Not surprisingly, when Remy fails to make his organ payment, Frank assigns Jake the task to repossess his new heart. Remy, along with Beth (Alice Braga), another client of The Union with many organs that require repossession, go on a cat-and-mouse chase to avoid getting captured by Jake and to, hopefully, erase their names from the corporationís database. Co-writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner take a very provocative premise and quickly seep out all of its cleverness and imagination, which makes it a squandered opportunity to turn it into at least a mindlessly entertaining sci-fi adventure. Nearly every plot twist and turn is not only telegraphed from a mile away but explained to the audience as if they were a bunch of Sarah Palins who donít understand how to piece things together logically. The grisly scenes of repossession serve no purpose other than as mere shock value while the initial scenes where Remy compares his situation to the SchrŲdinger's cat paradox are overly simplistic and sophomoric. As the film kicks its action gears with all the fast-paced fighting sequences and chases, tedium eventually sets in and so does blandness which even Jude Law and Forest Whitaker canít help to enliven with their dull, forgettable roles. Repo Men is slick and action-packed, but painfully insipid, needlessly gory, lackluster and, worst of all, fails to maintain its excitement, cleverness, imagination and thrills. Number of times I checked my watch: 3 Released by Universal Pictures.
Directed by Marco Bellocchio.
In Italian and German with subtitles. Ira Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) meets Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timo) back in 1907, before his rise to power as Italyís fascist dictator, and immediately falls in love with him. After working as an editor of the Socialist newspaper Avanti!, Mussolini starts his own newspaper, Il Popolo díItalia, which helps to fuel the birth of the forthcoming Fascist Party. By then, Ira has become his wife and bears his child, Benito Albino. She loves his so dearly that she sold most of her possessions to finance Mussoliniís newspaper. However, he neglects her as his wife and goes off into the battle once World War I begins. Upon his return, he lays wounded in a military hospital bed and, when Ira visits him, she learns that he has a new wife, Rachele (Michela Cescon) and a five-year-old daughter. Itís at this point that the film veers into dramatic thriller territory as Ida is forced to be imprisoned in an asylum and to be separated from her son even though that she repeatedly asserts that sheís truly Mussoliniís wife. The marriage documents cannot be found and she remains incarcerated there for eleven years while desperately trying to prove that heís her husband which. Giovanna Mezzogiorno delivers a brave, convincingly moving performance as Ida. Sheís the heart and soul of the film and radiates so much warmth, charisma and tenderness that all help to make her character easy to care about as a sensitive, passionate, loyal, persistent, courageous yet fragile human being. The screenplay by director/co-writer Marco Bellocchio deftly combines drama, suspense and intrigue with great attention to detail that makes for a very illuminating and captivating experience, especially for attentive audience members. Bellocchio also includes very stylish cinematography that invigorates the film with plenty of flair. Vincere isnít one of those pedestrian, bland period pieces with merely great costume/set designs---instead, it has both style and substance while remaining engaging from start to finish. At a running time of 2 hours and 8 minutes, Vincere is captivating, taut, absorbing and invigorating with exquisitely stylish cinematography and a mesmerizing, tour de force by Giovanna Mezzogiorno. Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by IFC Films.